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services were thus impelled to take the risk with ships. Surely with two men of such dominant personality who consulted subordinates little and distrusted each other much, there was a double need to call in the experts associated with them.
Moreover, Mr. Asquith had recently in the Ulster crisis found at the War Office how little the haphazard opinions of military men are to be relied upon without cross-examination. He was President of a Court in which he was possibly the only minister without a bias. The conduct of Lord Fisher in not speaking out is gravely criticised; Mr. Asquith left no doubt on the mind of the Commission that his interposition would have been welcome. Lord Grey said the War Council went solely by the opinions of the two ministers. Lord Crewe said the political members of the Committee did too much of the talking and the expert members as a rule too little,' a view in which Lord Haldane concurred. Mr. Balfour and Mr. Lloyd George assumed that experts assented if they did not dissent, a view which it is to be hoped the present Prime Minister does not now rely upon. During a whole series of meetings Mr. Asquith and his colleagues were counting on Lord Fisher and the experts to open their minds; Lord Fisher thought he must be silent or resign. Politicians and admirals, following the precedent of Lord Chatham and Sir Richard Strachan, were waiting on each other' for many weeks, while the Cabinet accepted the views of the soi-disant interpreter who advised them.
The picture of the War Council on the 28th January 1915 is a tragic one.
Mr. Churchill kept on saying he could do it without the 'army'; Lord Fisher during the Council was manœuvring about the room to get away and resign; the other ministers no doubt saw all that passed, but were content at a second meeting that day to take the leap in the dark without a word from Lord Fisher or Sir Arthur Wilson, and to hang on the words of a young man in a hurry 'the biggest naval operation undertaken since Trafalgar.
The story does not end here. After the first bombardment on February 19 it was quite obvious that troops would be needed ; after the second, on March 18, the heavy loss made it clear to all on the spot that the ships could not get through. Sir Ian Hamilton had fortunately then arrived at the Dardanelles, and was taking a strong hand in the decision. His telegram to Lord Kitchener of March 19th saved the country from a great naval disaster :
'I am being most reluctantly driven towards the conclusion that the Dardanelles are less likely to be forced by battleships than at one time seemed probable. . . . The army's share will not be a case of landing parties for the destruction of forts, &c., but rather a deliberate and progressive military operation carried out in force in order to make good the passage of the navy.'
Mr. Churchill none the less again tried to force the running, in the face of Sir Ian Hamilton's and Admiral de Robeck's opinions, but was headed off by the combined weight of Lord Fisher, Sir Arthur Wilson, and Sir Henry Jackson, and the dash to victory was abandoned. Instead of 'rushing the Dardanelles it was decided that naval and military forces were to be employed together on a large scale to clear the Turks from the Gallipoli peninsula.
The narrative of events ends at March 23rd. Two very serious questions present themselves upon it. The first of these can be disposed of in a few words. Naval strategy is proverbially most imperfectly understood. There have been great military changes during the war, but trench warfare has reproduced many of the old siege conditions. Naval warfare has been incomparably more changed, and there have been no precedents to guide us. The naval experience of the RussoJapanese war was partial and unreal. The relation of ships to forts and of mines to ships was realised to some extent at Port Arthur, but the submarine did not exist, and the fight at Tushima, where one fleet was old-fashioned and barnacled by months of voyage, was a travesty of naval war on the modern scale. Moreover the effect of modern guns on forts, as shown at Liége, Namur, and Antwerp, had not been tested by ships. These changes were all realised by sailors, and few of them would re-echo Lord Fisher's cocksure pronouncement quoted above of the exact loss incident to any operation. The meagre nature of the data by which to steer and the awful risks involved, apart from the fact that a repulse at sea would affect British prestige at its most vital point, should surely have combined to make impartial judges scrutinise every detail of the case with microscopic severity. There is no evidence that they did anything of the kind. Ex parte and general statements by the First Lord were held to cover all that need be said, and naval strategy was dealt with as if it were a case of adding a few thousand pounds to the Estimates.
Both the Prime Minister and Mr. Balfour, with whom I discussed the matter,' says Mr. Churchill, 'were inclined to
my view.' Did either of them cross-question Lord Fisher, Sir Arthur Wilson, or Sir Henry Jackson? We understand they did not do so at the War Council. The meeting after the second bombardment took place at the Admiralty. Were they present ? Did they hear the sailors’ protest ? If they did not, and still 'inclined to support Mr. Churchill,' assuredly they must now reproach themselves. Both of these statesmen have unblemished records, but they seem to have lacked the judicial faculty at the critical moment, for the weakest judge who ever sat on a bench would go through the form of hearing the witnesses for the other side, even if he had made up his mind.
But a far wider and deeper question is raised by Sir Ian Hamilton's evidence. Every one fully realises the temptation to undertake the bombardment, and can make allowance for the difficulty in deciding between expert opinions not very clearly given on a course of action on which there were few fixed signposts. The British nation will always be generous to administrators who make mistakes through excess of driving power. But we now reach a phase of the proceedings which can only be viewed with amazement.
“As early as November 1914 the idea of attacking the • Dardanelles had been mooted, but there does not appear at that 'time to have been any sort of intention of making a purely 'naval attack.' From the beginning of January the question of ships without troops, or ships with troops, had been incessantly debated. The Admiralty had made great provision for transport and for landing. Stores were being accumulated. The exact locale of the attack was doubtful, but the project was alive. What was being done by way of preparation in the only department of the War Office in which preparation was possible? The answer is given in Sir Ian Hamilton's own words (section 108). There was total absence of information furnished to him by the War Office Staff. No preliminary scheme of
operations had been drawn up. 'The Army Council had disappeared.' No arrangements had been made about water supply. “There was great want of Staff preparation.'
This point must be pressed to an issue. The War Office as a whole has no right to be exposed to obloquy for shortcomings which do not lie at its door. No servants of the State have come better out of the war than those who constitute the War Office. Restricted by the orders of successive Governments to providing
(1) An Expeditionary Force of 150,000 men, (2) 400,000 men for Home Defence,
(3) 75,000 men in India, this department, against which so much has been written in the past, not only provided all that had been laid down but expanded the Expeditionary Force tenfold within six months, and, with the exception of munitions which could not be improvised, maintained throughout the highest standard of equipment and supply of any troops in any army.
The quality of the Army, which carried out unbroken the retreat from Mons, one of the brightest feats in military history, left nothing to be desired. The soldiers who in the past made that retreat possible-Lord Wolseley and Sir Evelyn Wood, and later Lord Roberts and Sir John French—did not rest satisfied with putting the troops in line. The debt which Great Britain owes to Lord Wolseley has been forgotten. He passed away without a word of acknowledgment in either House of Parliament. Not merely did he, when AdjutantGeneral during the fateful years 1882–1890, and after 1895 as Commander-in-Chief, put new spirit into the training of the Army, but he was the founder of the Intelligence Department and General Staff.
This all-important branch of the War Office, developed under his auspices, dates from 1885, although General Brackenbury, one of the brilliant group of soldiers who had shared his campaigns, found at first little sympathy from the 'bow-and
arrow Generals,' to use Lord Wolseley's phrase, to whom he owed allegiance.
Under Mr. Stanhope and Lord Lansdowne the Staff rapidly developed, and when Lord Roberts returned from South Africa, General (now Field-Marshal) Lord Nicholson obtained a commanding position and became, after Lord Roberts, the most important member of the War Office Council. It is a matter for lasting regret that this gifted officer was removed from the War Office by Lord Esher's Committee, after less than three years' service, on the trivial pretext that new blood was required, and since 1905 the appointment has been rather the reward of field service than of special Staff aptitude. Needless to say, the immense complexity of the problems which beset the British Empire all over the world makes the post of Chief of the Staff one with which no human brain could cope successfully without some permanence of tenure.
To the ordinary peace calls for studying the conditions under which expeditions might have to be undertaken in a dozen different spheres, the outbreak of war added enormously. The despatch and transport of troops to France was a settled service; on the other hand questions of 'change of venue were limited in number but of transcendent importance. Mesopotamia, Arabia, Asia Minor, the Balkans, the coast of Belgium, Schleswig-Holstein-each furnished its quota.
The German General Staff would have set to work on such problems in a few hours. Leaving the great centre in France to the trained body who had been accustomed to work together in the War Office, they would have called up their reserves, and delegated a section of each of the other possible fields of action to independent officers. Lord Nicholson was still available, so were a score of others of trained capacity and great knowledge of the East. Instead of this being done, a'general post' was commenced in August 1914, which, when we remember the tens of thousands of lives lost in consequence of it, can hardly be forgiven.
Sir Charles Douglas, a good officer of no special Staff ability, was Chief of the General Staff at the outbreak of war; greatly overtaxed, he died in October 1914. The office without any undue haste was bestowed on Sir James Wolfe Murray, Lord Kitchener performing the duties in the meantime. later, when the Salonika Expedition was under discussion, Sir James Wolfe Murray was hastily removed and Sir Archibald Murray appointed. In December 1915, after sixteen months of war and 300,000 casualties, the full importance of the post was at last appreciated and Sir William Robertson, to the infinite advantage of the country, was brought back from France