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Title: Experiences of a Dug-out, 1914-1918
Author: Callwell, Charles Edward
Language: English
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                         EXPERIENCES

                         OF A DUG-OUT

                          1914-1918



                     _BY THE SAME AUTHOR._


                THE LIFE OF LIEUTENANT-GENERAL
                       SIR STANLEY MAUDE
                    K.C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O.
                    Illustrations and Maps.

                        THE DARDANELLES
                              Maps.

                           TIRAH 1897
                              Maps.

     The last two of these volumes belong to Constable's "Campaigns
     and their Lessons" Series, of which Major-General Sir C. E.
     Callwell is Editor.



[Illustration: AT THE "CROW'S NEST" (page 273)
  1. Colonel Maslianikov
  2. Major-General Callwell
  3. Captain Wigram
  4. Major-General Savitzky
  5. Baron Meyendorff]



                         EXPERIENCES

                         OF A DUG-OUT

                          1914-1918


                     BY MAJOR-GENERAL SIR
                    C. E. CALLWELL, K.C.B.


                      WITH A FRONTISPIECE



                       LONDON: CONSTABLE
                     & COMPANY LIMITED 1920



NOTE


Some passages in this Volume have already appeared in _Blackwood's
Magazine_. The Author has to express his acknowledgements to the
Editor for permission to reproduce them.

Had Lord Fisher's death occurred before the proofs were finally passed
for press, certain references to that great servant of the State would
have been somewhat modified.



CONTENTS


CHAPTER I                                                    Page

     THE OUTBREAK OF WAR....................................... 1

     Unfair disparagement of the War Office during the war --
     Difficulties under which it suffered owing to pre-war misconduct
     of the Government -- The army prepared, the Government and the
     country unprepared -- My visit to German districts on the Belgian
     and Luxemburg frontiers in June 1914 -- The German railway
     preparations -- The plan of the Great General Staff indicated by
     these -- The Aldershot Command at exercise -- I am summoned to
     London by General H. Wilson -- Informed of contemplated
     appointment to be D.M.O. -- The unsatisfactory organization of
     the Military Operations Directorate -- An illustration of this
     from pre-war days -- G.H.Q. rather a nuisance till they proceeded
     to France -- The scare about a hostile maritime descent --
     Conference at the Admiralty -- The depletion of my Directorate to
     build up G.H.Q. -- Inconvenience of this in the case of the
     section dealing with special Intelligence services -- An example
     of the trouble that arose at the very start -- This points to a
     misunderstanding of the relative importance of the War Office and
     of G.H.Q. -- Sir J. French's responsibility for this, Sir C.
     Douglas not really responsible -- Colonel Dallas enumerates the
     great numerical resources of Germany -- Lord Kitchener's
     immediate recognition of the realities of the situation -- Sir J.
     French's suggestion that Lord Kitchener should be
     commander-in-chief of the Expeditionary Force indicated
     misconception of the position of affairs.


CHAPTER II

     EARLY DAYS AT THE WAR OFFICE............................. 18

     Plan of issuing _communiqués_ given up owing to the disposition
     to conceal reverses that manifested itself -- Direct telephonic
     communication with the battlefield in Belgium -- A strange
     attempt to withhold news as to the fall of Brussels -- Anxiety
     during the retreat from Mons -- The work of the Topographical
     Section at that time -- Arrival of refugee officers and other
     ranks at the War Office -- One of the Royal Irish affords
     valuable information -- Candidates for the appointment of
     "Intelligence Officer" -- How one dealt with recommendations in
     regard to jobs -- Linguists -- The discoverer of interpreters,
     fifty produced as if by magic -- The Boy Scouts in the War Office
     -- An Admirable Crichton -- The scouts' effective method of
     handling troublesome visitors -- Army chaplains in embryo -- A
     famous cricketer doing his bit -- A beauty competition outside my
     door -- The Eminent K.C. -- An impressive personality -- How he
     benefits the community -- The Self-Appointed Spy-Catcher -- Gun
     platforms concealed everywhere -- The hidden dangers in disused
     coal mines in Kent -- Procuring officers for the New Armies --
     "Bill" Elliot's unorthodox methods -- The Military Secretary's
     branch meets with a set-back -- Visits from Lord Roberts -- His
     suggestion as to the commander-in-chiefship in China -- His last
     visit -- The Antwerp business -- The strategical situation with
     regard to the Belgian field army -- The project of our Government
     -- The despatch of the Seventh Division and the Third Cavalry
     Division to Belgian Flanders -- Organization of base and line of
     communications overlooked -- A couple of transports "on their
     own" come to a halt on the Goodwins -- Difficulty of the
     strategical situation -- Death of Sir C. Douglas.


CHAPTER III

     LORD KITCHENER'S START................................... 42

     A first meeting with Lord Kitchener -- Sent up to see him in
     Pretoria by his brother under unpromising conditions -- The
     interview -- The Chief's pleasant reception -- A story of Lord K.
     from the Sudan -- An unpleasant interview with him in August 1914
     -- Rare meetings with him during the first two or three months --
     His ignorance of War Office organization -- His lack of
     acquaintance with many matters in connection with the existing
     organization of the army -- His indisposition to listen to advice
     on such subjects -- Lord K. shy of strangers -- His treatment of
     the Territorial Forces -- Their weak point at the outset of
     hostilities, not having the necessary strength to mobilize at war
     establishment -- Effect of this on the general plans -- The way
     the Territorials dwindled after taking the field -- Lord K.
     inclined at first to pile up divisions without providing them
     with the requisite reservoirs of reserves -- His feat in
     organizing five regular divisions in addition to those in the
     Expeditionary Force -- His immediate recognition of the
     magnitude of the contest -- He makes things hum in the War Office
     -- His differences of opinion with G.H.Q. -- The inability of
     G.H.Q. to realize that a vast expansion of the military forces
     was the matter of primary importance -- Lord K.'s relations with
     Sir J. French -- The despatch of Sir H. Smith-Dorrien to command
     the Second Corps -- Sir J. French not well treated at the time of
     the Antwerp affair -- The relegation of the General Staff at the
     War Office to the background in the early days -- Question
     whether this was entirely due to its having suffered in
     efficiency by the withdrawals which took place on mobilization --
     The General Staff only eliminated in respect to operations.


CHAPTER IV

     LORD KITCHENER'S LATER RECORD............................ 60

     The munitions question and the Dardanelles to be dealt with later
     -- The Alexandretta project of the winter of 1914-15 -- Such an
     operation presented little difficulty then -- H.M.S. _Doris'_
     doings -- The scheme abandoned -- I am sent to Paris about the
     Italian conventions just after the Dardanelles landings --
     Concern at the situation after the troops had got ashore at
     Helles and Anzac -- A talk with Lord K. and Sir E. Grey -- Its
     consequences -- Lord K. seemed to have lost some of his
     confidence in his own judgement with regard to operations
     questions -- The question of the withdrawal of the _Queen
     Elizabeth_ from the Aegean -- The discussion about it at the
     Admiralty -- Lord K.'s inability to take some of his colleagues
     at their own valuation -- Does not know some of their names --
     Another officer of distinction gets them mixed up in his mind --
     Lord K.'s disappointment at the early failures of the New Army
     divisions -- His impatience when he wanted anything in a hurry --
     My own experiences -- Typists' idiosyncrasies aggravate the
     trouble -- Lord K. in an unreasonable mood -- His knowledge of
     French -- His skilful handling of a Portuguese mission -- His
     readiness to see foreign officers when asked to do so -- How he
     handled them -- The Serbian Military Attaché asks for approval of
     an attack by his country upon Bulgaria at the time of Bulgarian
     mobilization -- A dramatic interview with Lord K. -- Confidence
     placed in him with regard to munitions by the Russians -- His
     speeches in the House of Lords -- The heat of his room -- His
     preoccupation about the safety of Egypt -- He disapproves of the
     General Staff plan with regard to its defence -- His attitude
     with regard to national service -- His difficulties in this
     matter -- His anxiety to have a reserve in hand for delivering
     the decisive blow in the war -- My last meeting with him -- His
     pleasure in going to Russia -- His failure to accomplish his
     mission, a great disaster to the Entente cause -- A final word
     about him -- He did more than any man on the side of the Allies
     to win the war -- Fitz.


CHAPTER V

     THE DARDANELLES.......................................... 86

     The Tabah incident -- The Dardanelles memorandum of 1906 --
     Special steps taken with regard to it by Sir H.
     Campbell-Bannerman -- Mr. Churchill first raises the question --
     My conference with him in October 1914 -- The naval project
     against the Straits -- Its fundamental errors -- Would never have
     been carried into effect had there been a conference between the
     Naval War Staff and the General Staff -- The bad start -- The
     causes of the final failure on the 18th of March -- Lord K.'s
     instructions to Sir I. Hamilton -- The question of the packing of
     the transports -- Sir I. Hamilton's complaint as to there being
     no plan prepared -- The 1906 memorandum -- Sir Ian's complaint
     about insufficient information -- How the 1906 memorandum
     affected this question -- Misunderstanding as to the difficulty
     of obtaining information -- The information not in reality so
     defective -- My anxiety at the time of the first landing -- The
     plan, a failure by early in May -- Impossibility of sending
     reinforcements then -- Question whether the delay in sending out
     reinforcements greatly affected the result in August 1915 -- The
     Dardanelles Committee -- Its anxiety -- Sir E. Carson and Mr.
     Churchill, allies -- The question of clearing out -- My
     disinclination to accept the principle before September -- Sir C.
     Monro sent out -- The delay of the Government in deciding -- Lord
     K. proceeds to the Aegean -- My own experiences -- A trip to
     Paris with a special message to the French Government -- Sent on
     a fool's errand, thanks to the Cabinet -- A notable State paper
     on the subject -- Mr. Lloyd George and the "sanhedrin" --
     Decision to evacuate only Anzac and Suvla -- Sir W. Robertson
     arrives and orders sent to evacuate Helles -- I give up the
     appointment of D.M.O.


CHAPTER VI

     SOME EXPERIENCES IN THE WAR OFFICE...................... 107

     A reversion to earlier dates -- The statisticians in the winter
     of 1914-15 -- The efforts to prove that German man-power would
     shortly give out -- Lack of the necessary premises upon which to
     found such calculations -- Views on the maritime blockade -- The
     projects for operations against the Belgian coast district in
     the winter of 1914-15 -- Nature of my staff -- The "dug-outs" --
     The services of one of them, "Z" -- His care of me in foreign
     parts -- His activities in other Departments of State -- An
     alarming discovery -- How "Z" grappled with a threatening
     situation -- He hears about the Admiralty working on the Tanks --
     The cold-shouldering of Colonel Swinton when he raised this
     question at the War Office in January 1915 -- Lord Fisher
     proposes to construct large numbers of motor-lighters, and I am
     told off to go into the matter with him -- The Baltic project --
     The way it was approached -- Meetings with Lord Fisher -- The
     "beetles" -- Visits from the First Sea Lord -- The question of
     secrecy in connection with war operations -- A parable -- The
     land service behind the sea service in this matter -- Interviews
     with Mr. Asquith -- His ways on such occasions.


CHAPTER VII

     FURTHER EXPERIENCES IN THE WAR OFFICE................... 127

     Varied nature of my responsibilities -- Inconvenience caused by a
     Heath-Caldwell being a brother-Director on the General Staff --
     An interview with Lord Methuen -- The Man of Business -- His
     methods when in charge of a Government Department -- War Office
     branches under Men of Business -- The art of advertisement --
     This not understood by War Office officials -- The paltry staff
     and accommodation at the disposal of the Director of Supplies and
     Transport, and what was accomplished -- Good work of the
     Committee of Imperial Defence in providing certain organizations
     for special purposes before the war -- The contre-espionage
     branch -- The Government's singular conduct on the occasion of
     the first enemy spy being executed at the Tower -- The cable
     censorship -- The post office censorship -- A visit from Admiral
     Bacon -- His plan of landing troops by night at Ostend -- Some
     observations on the subject -- Sir J. Wolfe-Murray leaves the War
     Office -- An appreciation of his work -- The Dardanelles papers
     to be presented to Parliament referred to me -- My action in the
     matter and the appointment of the Dardanelles Committee in
     consequence -- Mr. Lloyd George, Secretary of State for War --
     His activities -- I act as D.C.I.G.S. for a month -- Sound
     organization introduced by Sir W. Robertson -- Normal
     trench-warfare casualties and battle casualties -- I learn the
     facts about the strengths of the different armies in the field --
     Troubles with the Cabinet over man-power -- Question of
     resignation of the Army Council -- The Tank Corps and Tanks --
     The War Office helps in the reorganization of the Admiralty --
     Some of the War Cabinet want to divert troops to the Isonzo --
     The folly of such a plan -- Objections to it indicated --
     Arrival of General Pershing in London -- I form one of the party
     that proceeds to Devonport to meet Colonel House and the United
     States Commissioners -- Its adventures -- Admirals adrift -- Mr.
     Balfour meets the Commissioners at Paddington.


CHAPTER VIII

     THE NEAR EAST........................................... 152

     The first talk about Salonika -- The railway and the port -- The
     question of operations based on Macedonia at the end of 1914 --
     Failure of "easterners" to realize that the Western Front was
     Germany's weakest front -- Question whether it might not have
     been better to go to Salonika than to the Dardanelles --
     Objections to this plan -- The problem of Bulgaria --
     Consequences of the Russian _débâcle_ -- Difficulty of the Near
     Eastern problem in the early summer -- An example of how the
     Dardanelles Committee approached it -- Awkwardness of the problem
     after the failure of Sir I. Hamilton's August offensive -- The
     Bulgarian attitude -- Entente's objection to Serbia attacking
     Bulgaria -- I am ordered to Salonika, but order countermanded --
     The disaster to Serbia -- Hard to say what ought to have been
     done -- Real mistake, the failure to abandon the Dardanelles
     enterprise in May -- The French attitude about Salonika --
     General Sarrail -- French General Staff impressed with War Office
     information concerning Macedonia -- Unsatisfactory situation at
     the end of 1915 -- The Salonika business a blunder all through --
     Eventual success does not alter this.


CHAPTER IX

     OTHER SIDE-SHOWS........................................ 170

     Three categories of side-shows -- The Jackson Committee -- The
     Admiralty's attitude -- The Pacific, Duala, Tanga, Dar-es-Salaam,
     Oceania, the Wireless Stations -- Kiao Chao -- The Shatt-el-Arab
     -- Egypt -- Question whether the Australasian forces ought to
     have been kept for the East -- The East African operations -- Our
     lack of preparation for a campaign in this quarter -- Something
     wrong -- My own visit to Tanga and Dar-es-Salaam in 1908 -- The
     bad start of the campaign -- Question of utilizing South African
     troops to restore the situation -- How this was managed --
     Reasons why this was a justifiable side-show -- Mesopotamia --
     The War Office ought to have interfered -- The question of an
     advance on Baghdad by General Townshend suddenly referred to the
     General Staff -- Our mistake -- The question of Egyptian defence
     in the latter part of 1915 -- The Alexandretta project -- A later
     Alexandretta project propounded by the War Cabinet in 1917 -- Its
     absurdity -- The amateur strategist on the war-path -- The
     Palestine campaign of 1918 carried out almost entirely by troops
     not required on the Western Front, and therefore a legitimate
     side-show -- The same principle to some extent holds good with
     regard to the conquest of Mesopotamia -- The Downing Street
     project to substitute Sir W. Robertson for Sir C. Monro, a
     miss-fire.


CHAPTER X

     THE MUNITIONS QUESTION.................................. 190

     Mr. Asquith's Newcastle speech -- The mischief that it did -- The
     time that must elapse before any great expansion in output of
     munitions can begin to materialize -- The situation analogous to
     that of a building -- The Ministry of Munitions was given and
     took the credit for the expansion in output for the year
     subsequent to its creation, which was in reality the work of the
     War Office -- The Northcliffe Press stunt about shell shortage --
     Its misleading character -- Sir H. Dalziel's attack upon General
     von Donop in the House -- Mr. Lloyd George's reply -- A
     discreditable episode -- Misapprehension on the subject of the
     army's preparedness for war in respect to material --
     Misunderstanding as to the machine-gun position -- Lord French's
     attack upon the War Office with regard to Munitions -- His
     responsibility for the lack of heavy artillery -- The matter
     taken up at the War Office before he ever raised it from G.H.Q.
     -- His responsibility for the absence of high-explosive shell for
     our field artillery -- A misconception as to the rôle of the
     General Staff -- The serious difficulty that arose with regard to
     this ammunition owing to prematures -- The misstatements in
     "_1914_" as to the amount of artillery ammunition which was sent
     across France to the Dardanelles -- Exaggerated estimates by
     factories as to what they would be able to turn out -- Their
     estimates discounted as a result of later experiences -- The
     Munitions Ministry not confined to its proper job -- The incident
     of 400 Tanks -- Conclusion.


CHAPTER XI

     COUNCILS, COMMITTEES, AND CABINETS...................... 208

     The responsibilities of experts at War Councils -- The Rt. Hon.
     A. Fisher's views -- Discussion as to whether these meet the case
     -- Under the War Cabinet system, the question does not arise --
     The Committee of Imperial Defence merged in the War Council early
     in the conflict -- The Dardanelles Committee -- Finding a formula
     -- Mr. Churchill backs up Sir I. Hamilton -- The spirit of
     compromise -- The Cabinet carrying on _pari passu_ with the
     Dardanelles Committee -- Personal experiences with the Cabinet --
     The War Council which succeeded the Dardanelles Committee -- An
     illustration of the value of the War Cabinet system -- Some of
     its inconveniences -- Ministers -- Mr. Henderson -- Sir E. Carson
     -- Mr. Bonar Law -- The question of resignation of individuals --
     Lord Curzon -- Mr. Churchill -- Mr. Lloyd George.


CHAPTER XII

     SOME INTER-ALLIES CONFERENCES........................... 222

     The Conference with the Italians in Paris in April-May 1915 --
     Its constitution -- Italians anxious that Allies should deliver
     big offensive simultaneously with advance of Italian army --
     Impossibility of giving a guarantee -- Difficulties over the
     naval proposals -- Banquet given by M. Millerand at the War
     Office -- A visit to the front -- Impressions -- Mr. Churchill
     turns up unexpectedly -- A conference with General Joffre at
     Chantilly on Salonika -- Its unsatisfactory character -- Admiral
     Gamble races "Grandpère" and suffers discomfiture -- A
     distinguished party proceed to Paris -- A formal conference with
     the French Government -- Messrs. Asquith, Grey and Lloyd George
     as linguists -- The French attitude over Salonika -- Sir W.
     Robertson gives his views -- The decision -- Dinner at the Élysée
     -- Return to London -- Mr. Lloyd George and the soldiers on the
     Boulogne jetty -- Points of the destroyer as a yacht -- Mr.
     Balfour and Sir W. Robertson afloat -- A chatty dinner on our
     side of the Channel -- Difficulty over Russian munitions owing to
     a Chantilly conference -- A conference at the War Office -- Mr.
     Lloyd George as chairman -- M. Mantoux.


CHAPTER XIII

     A FIRST MISSION TO RUSSIA............................... 237

     Reasons for Mission -- An effectual staff officer -- Our
     distinguished representatives in Scandinavia -- The journey --
     Stockholm -- Lapps -- Crossing the frontier at Haparanda --
     Arrival at Petrograd -- Sir G. Buchanan -- Interviews with
     General Polivanoff, Admiral Grigorovitch and M. Sazonoff --
     Imperial vehicles -- Petrograd -- We proceed to the Stavka --
     Improper use of the title "Tsar" -- The Imperial headquarters --
     Meeting with the Emperor -- Two disconcerting incidents --
     Nicholas II. -- His charm -- His admiration for Lord Kitchener's
     work -- Conference with General Alexeieff -- Mohileff -- Service
     in the church in honour of the Grand Duchess Tatiana's birthday
     -- Return to Petrograd -- A rencontre with an archbishop -- The
     nuisance of swords -- Return home.


CHAPTER XIV

     A SECOND MISSION TO RUSSIA.............................. 253

     Object of this second mission -- The general military situation
     -- Verdun and Kut -- Baron Meyendorff -- We partially adopt
     Russian uniform -- Stay in Petrograd -- Sir Mark Sykes --
     Presentation of decorations at the Admiralty -- Mohileff --
     Conference with General Alexeieff -- He raises the question of an
     expedition to Alexandretta -- Asks for heavy artillery -- The
     Emperor -- A conversation with him -- The dismissal of Polivanoff
     -- Disquieting political conditions in Russia -- Nicholas II.'s
     attitude -- The journey to Tiflis -- We emerge from the snow near
     the Sea of Azov -- Caucasia -- Tiflis -- General Yanushkhevitch
     -- Conference with the Grand Duke Nicholas -- Proposes that we
     should smash Turkey -- Constantinople? -- Major Marsh -- The
     Grand Duke -- Presenting the G.C.M.G. to General Yudenitch -- Our
     stay at Tiflis -- Proceed to Batoum -- A day at Batoum -- Visit
     to the hospital ship _Portugal_ -- Proceed by destroyer to Off --
     Sinking of the _Portugal_ -- Off -- General Liakoff -- A ride to
     the scene of a very recent fight -- A fine view -- The field
     force dependent upon maritime communications -- Landing
     difficulties -- Return to Tiflis -- A gala dinner at the palace
     -- Journey to Sarikamish -- Russian pronunciation of names --
     Kars -- Greeting the troops -- One of the forts -- Welcome at
     Sarikamish -- General Savitzky -- Russian hospitality -- The myth
     about Russians being good linguists -- A drive in a blizzard --
     Colonel Maslianikoff describes his victory over the Turks in
     December 1914, on the site of his command post -- Our visit to
     this part of the world much appreciated -- A final interview with
     the Grand Duke -- Proceed to Moscow -- The Kremlin -- View of
     Moscow from the Sparrow Hills -- Visit to a hospital --
     Observations on such visits -- A talk with our acting
     Consul-General -- Back to Petrograd -- Conclusions drawn from
     this journey through Russia -- Visit to Lady Sybil Grey's
     hospital -- A youthful swashbuckler -- Return home -- We
     encounter a battle-cruiser squadron on the move.


CHAPTER XV

     THE RUSSIAN BUNGLE...................................... 280

     The Russian Revolution the worst disaster which befell the
     Entente during the Great War -- The political situation in Russia
     before that event much less difficult to deal with than had been
     the political situation in the Near East in 1915 -- The Allies'
     over-estimate of Russian strength in the early months of the war
     -- We hear about the ammunition shortage first from Japan --
     Presumable cause of the breakdown -- The Grand Duke Nicholas'
     difficulties in the early months -- Great improvement effected in
     respect to munitions subsequent to the summer of 1915 -- Figures
     -- Satisfactory outlook for the campaign of 1917 -- Political
     situation goes from bad to worse -- Russian mission to London; no
     steps taken by our Government -- Our representatives in Russia --
     Situation at the end of 1916 -- A private letter to Mr. Lloyd
     George -- The Milner Mission to Russia -- Its failure to
     interpret the portents -- Had Lord Kitchener got out it might
     have made all the difference -- Some excuse for our blundering
     subsequent to the Revolution -- The delay in respect to action in
     Siberia and at Vladivostok.


CHAPTER XVI

     CATERING FOR THE ALLIES................................. 293

     The appointment of Colonel Ellershaw to look after Russian
     munition supplies -- His remarkable success -- I take over his
     branch after his death -- Gradual alteration of its functions --
     The Commission Internationale de Ravitaillement -- Its efficiency
     -- The despatch of goods to Russia -- Russian technical abilities
     in advance of their organizing power -- The flame projector and
     the Stokes mortar -- Drawings and specifications of Tanks -- An
     early contretemps in dealing with a Russian military delegate --
     Misadventure in connection with a 9.2-inch howitzer --
     Difficulties at the northern Russian ports -- The American
     contracts -- The Russian Revolution -- This transforms the whole
     position as to supplies -- Roumania -- Statesmen in conflict --
     Dealings with the Allies' delegates in general -- Occasional
     difficulties -- Helpfulness of the United States representatives
     -- The Greek muddle -- Getting it disentangled -- Great delays in
     this country and in France in fitting out the Greeks, and their
     consequences -- Serbian supplies -- The command in Macedonia
     ought on administrative grounds to have been in British hands.


CHAPTER XVII

     THE PRESS............................................... 310

     The constant newspaper attacks upon the War Office -- Often arise
     from misunderstandings or sheer ignorance -- The mistake made
     with regard to war correspondents at the start -- The pre-war
     intentions of the General Staff -- How they were set on one side
     -- Inconvenience of this from the War Office point of view -- A
     breach of faith -- The mischievous optimism of newspapers in the
     early days -- Tendency of the military authorities to conceal bad
     news -- Experts at fault in the Press -- Tendency to take the
     Press too seriously in this country -- Some of its blunders
     during the war -- A proposal to put German officer prisoners on
     board transports as a protection -- A silly mistake over the
     promotion of general-officers -- Why were Tanks not adopted
     before the war! -- A paean about Sukhomlinoff -- A gross
     misstatement -- Temporary officers and high positions in the
     field -- A suggestion that the Press should censor itself in time
     of war; its absurdity -- The Press Bureau -- Some of its mistakes
     -- Information allowed to appear which should have been censored
     -- Difficulties of the censors -- The case of the shell shortage
     -- Difficulty of laying down rules for the guidance of censors --
     The Press and air-raids -- A newspaper proprietor placed at the
     head of the Air Service -- The result -- The question of
     announcing the names of units that have distinguished themselves
     -- Conclusion.


CHAPTER XVIII

     SOME CRITICISMS, SUGGESTIONS, AND GENERALITIES.......... 328

     Post-war extravagance -- The Office of Works lavish all through
     -- The Treasury -- Its unpopularity in the spending departments
     -- The Finance Branch of the War Office -- Suggestions -- The
     change with regard to saluting -- Red tabs and red cap-bands -- A
     Staff dandy in the West -- The age of general-officers --
     Position of the General Staff in the War Office -- The project of
     a Defence Ministry -- No excuse for it except with regard to the
     air services, and that not a sufficient excuse -- Confusion
     between the question of a Defence Ministry and that of the
     Imperial General Staff -- The time which must elapse before newly
     constituted units can be fully depended upon, one of the most
     important lessons for the public to realize -- This proved to be
     the case in almost every theatre and in the military forces of
     almost every belligerent -- Misapprehensions about South Africa
     -- Improvised units could not have done what the "Old
     Contemptibles" did -- Conclusion.



CHAPTER I

THE OUTBREAK OF WAR

     Unfair disparagement of the War Office during the war --
     Difficulties under which it suffered owing to pre-war misconduct
     of the Government -- The army prepared, the Government and the
     country unprepared -- My visit to German districts on the Belgian
     and Luxemburg frontiers in June 1914 -- The German railway
     preparations -- The plan of the Great General Staff indicated by
     these -- The Aldershot Command at exercise -- I am summoned to
     London by General H. Wilson -- Informed of contemplated
     appointment to be D.M.O. -- The unsatisfactory organization of
     the Military Operations Directorate -- An illustration of this
     from pre-war days -- G.H.Q. rather a nuisance until they
     proceeded to France -- The scare about a hostile maritime descent
     -- Conference at the Admiralty -- The depletion of my Directorate
     to build up G.H.Q. -- Inconvenience of this in the case of the
     section dealing with special Intelligence services -- An example
     of the trouble that arose at the very start -- This points to a
     misunderstanding of the relative importance of the War Office and
     of G.H.Q. -- Sir J. French's responsibility for this, Sir C.
     Douglas not really responsible -- Colonel Dallas enumerates the
     great numerical resources of Germany -- Lord Kitchener's
     immediate recognition of the realities of the situation -- Sir J.
     French's suggestion that Lord Kitchener should be
     Commander-in-Chief of the Expeditionary Force indicated
     misconception of the position of affairs.


In a record of experiences during the Great War that were for the most
part undergone within the War Office itself, it is impossible to
overcome the temptation to draw attention at the start to the
unreasonably disparaging attitude towards that institution which has
been adopted so generally throughout the country. Nobody will contend
that hideous blunders were not committed by some departments of the
central administration of the Army in Whitehall during the progress of
the struggle. It has to be admitted that considerable sums of money
were from time to time wasted--it could hardly be otherwise in such
strenuous times. A regrettable lack of foresight was undoubtedly
displayed in some particulars. But tremendous difficulties,
difficulties for the existence of which the military authorities were
nowise to blame, had on the other hand to be overcome--and they were
overcome. Nor can the War Office be robbed of its claim to have borne
the chief share in performing what was the greatest miracle of all the
miracles performed during the course of the contest. Within the space
of less than two years the United Kingdom was, mainly by the exertions
of the War Office, transformed into a Great Military Power. That
achievement covers up many transgressions.

It has to be remembered that in this matter the detractors had it all
their own way during the struggle. Anybody harbouring a grievance,
real or imaginary, was at liberty to air his wrongs, whereas the
mouths of soldiers in a position to reply had perforce to remain
closed and have to a great extent still to remain closed. The
disgruntled had the field pretty well to themselves. Ridiculous
stories for which there was not one atom of foundation have gained
currency, either because those who knew the truth were precluded by
their official status from revealing the facts or because no one took
the trouble to contradict the absurdities. Some of these yarns saw the
light in the newspapers, and the credulity of the public in accepting
everything that happens to appear in the Press is one of the
curiosities of the age. Not, however, that many of the criticisms of
which the War Office was the subject during the protracted broil were
not fully warranted. Some of them were indeed most helpful. But others
were based on a positively grovelling ignorance of the circumstances
governing the subject at issue. Surely it is an odd thing that,
whereas your layman will shy at committing himself in regard to legal
problems, will not dream of debating medical questions, will shrink
from expressing opinions on matters involving acquaintance with
technical science, will even be somewhat guarded in his utterances
concerning the organization and handling of fleets, everybody is eager
to lay the law down respecting the conduct of war on land.

A reference has been made above to the extraordinary difficulties
under which the War Office laboured during the war. The greatest of
these, at all events during the early days, was the total
misconception of the international situation of which H.M. Government
had been guilty--or had apparently been guilty--during the years
immediately preceding the outbreak of hostilities. No intelligible and
satisfactory explanation of this has ever been put forward. Their
conduct in this connection had been the conduct of fools, or of
knaves, or of liars. They had been acting as fools if they had failed
to interpret auguries which presented no difficulty whatever to people
of ordinary intelligence who took the trouble to watch events. They
had been acting as knaves if they had been drawing their salaries and
had not earned them by making themselves acquainted with facts which
it was their bounden duty to know. They had been acting as liars if,
when fully aware of the German preparations for aggressive war and of
what these portended, they had deliberately deceived and hoodwinked
the countrymen who trusted them. (Personally, I should be disposed to
acquit them of having been fools or knaves--but I may be wrong.)
Several Ministers had indeed deliberately stated in their places in
Parliament that the nation's military arrangements were not framed to
meet anything beyond the despatch to an oversea theatre of war of four
out of the six divisions of our Expeditionary Force! One of the gang
had even been unable "to conceive circumstances in which continental
operations by our troops would not be a crime against the people of
this country."

Much has been said and written since 1914 concerning the unpreparedness
of the army for war. But the truth is that the army was not
unprepared for that limited-liability, pill-to-stop-an-earthquake
theory of making war which represented the programme of Mr. Asquith
and his colleagues before the blow fell. Take it all round, the
Expeditionary Force was as efficient as any allied or hostile army
which took the field. It was almost as well prepared for the supreme
test in respect to equipment as it was in respect to leadership and
training. The country and the Government, not the army, were
unprepared. There was little wrong with the military forces except
that they represented merely a drop in the ocean, that they
constituted no more than an advanced guard to legions which did not
exist. Still one must acknowledge that (as will be pointed out further
on) even some of our highest military authorities did not realize what
an insignificant asset our splendid little Expeditionary Force would
stand for in a great European war, nor to have grasped when the crash
came that the matter of paramount importance in connection with the
conduct of the struggle on land was the creation of a host of fighting
men reaching such dimensions as to render it competent to play a
really vital rôle in achieving victory for the Entente.

As it happened, I had proceeded as a private individual in the month
of June 1914 to inspect the German railway developments directed
towards the frontiers of Belgium and of Luxemburg. This was an
illuminating, indeed an ominous, experience. Entering the Kaiser's
dominions by the route from the town of Luxemburg to Trèves, one came
of a sudden upon a colossal detraining station that was not quite
completed, fulfilling no conceivable peaceful object and dumped down
on the very frontier--anything more barefaced it would be difficult to
conceive. Trèves itself, three or four miles on, constituted a vast
railway centre, and three miles or so yet farther along there was its
counterpart in another great railway centre where there was no town at
all. You got Euston, Liverpool Street, and Waterloo--only the lines
and sidings, of course--grown up like mushrooms in a non-populous and
non-industrial region, and at the very gates of a little State of
which Germany had guaranteed the neutrality.

Traversing the region to the north of the Moselle along the western
German border-line, this proved to be a somewhat barren, partly
woodland, partly moorland, tract, sparsely inhabited as Radnor and
Strathspey; and yet this unproductive district had become a network of
railway communications. Elaborate detraining stations were passed
every few miles. One constantly came upon those costly overhead
cross-over places, where one set of lines is carried right over the
top of another set at a junction, so that continuous traffic going one
way shall not be checked by traffic coming in from the side and
proceeding in the opposite direction--a plan seldom adopted at our
most important railway centres. On one stretch of perhaps half-a-dozen
miles connecting two insignificant townships were to be seen eight
lines running parallel to each other. Twopenny-halfpenny little trains
doddered along, occasionally taking up or putting down a single
passenger at some halting-place that was large enough to serve a
Coventry or a Croydon. The slopes of the cuttings and sidings were
destitute of herbage; the bricks of the culverts and bridges showed
them by the colour to be brand-new; all this construction had taken
place within the previous half-dozen years. Everything seemed to be
absolutely ready except that one place on the Luxemburg frontier
mentioned above, and that obviously could be completed in a few hours
of smart work, if required.

One had heard a good deal about the Belgians having filled in a gap on
their side of the frontier so as to join up Malmedy with their internal
railway system, and thus to establish a fresh through-connection
between the Rhineland and the Meuse, so I travelled along this on my
way back. But it was unimpressive. The drop from the rolling uplands
about the camp of Elsenborn down to Malmedy gave rise to very steep
gradients on the German side, and the single line of rail was so
dilapidated and was so badly laid that, as we ran down with steam off,
it hardly seemed safe for a short train of about half-a-dozen coaches.
That the Great General Staff had no intention of making this a main
line of advance appeared to be pretty clear. They meant the hosts that
they would dispose of when the moment came, to sweep round by
communications lying farther to the north, starting from about
Aix-la-Chapelle and heading for the gap south of the Dutch enclave
about Maestricht. The impression acquired during this flying visit was
that for all practical purposes the Germans had everything ready for
an immediate invasion of Belgium and Luxemburg when the crisis
arrived, that they were simply awaiting the fall of the flag, that
when war came they meant to make their main advance through Belgium,
going wide, and that _pickelhaubes_ would be as the sands of the sea
for number well beyond Liège within a very few days of the outbreak of
hostilities. On getting home I compared notes with the Intelligence
Section of the General Staff which was especially interested in these
territories, but found little to tell them that they did not know
already except with regard to a few very recently completed railway
constructions. The General Staff hugged no illusions. They were not so
silly as to suppose that the Teuton proposed to respect treaties in
the event of the upheaval that was sure to come ere long.

Having a house at Fleet that summer, I cycled over to beyond Camberley
one day, just at the stage when coming events were beginning to cast
their shadows before after the Serajevo assassinations, to watch the
Aldershot Command at work, and talked long with many members of the
Command and with some of the Staff College personnel who had turned
out to see the show. Some of them--_e.g._ Lieut.-Colonels W. Thwaites
and J. T. Burnett-Stuart and Major (or was it Captain?) W. E.
Ironside--were to go far within the next five years. But there were
also others whom I met that day for the last time--Brigadier-General
Neil Findlay, commanding the artillery, who had been in the same room
with me at the "Shop," and Lieut.-Colonel Adrian Grant-Duff of the
Black Watch, excusing his presence in the firing-line on the plea that
he "really _must_ see how his lads worked through the woodlands"; both
had made the supreme sacrifice in France before the leaves were off
the trees. How many are alive and unmaimed to-day of those fighting
men of all ranks who buzzed about so cheerily amid the heather and the
pine trees that afternoon, and who melted away so silently out of
Aldershot a very few days later?

The clouds thereafter gathered thicker from day to day, and on Friday
morning, the 31st of July, I received a letter from General Henry
Wilson, sent on from my town address, asking me to come and breakfast
with him on the following day. I was going down to Winchester to see
the Home Counties (Territorial) Division complete a long march from
the east on their way to Salisbury Plain, and it happened to be
inconvenient to go up to town that night, so I wired to Wilson to say
I would call at his house on the Sunday. On getting back, late, to
Fleet I however found a peremptory summons from him saying I must come
and see him next day, and I went up in the morning. One could not
foresee that that breakfast in Draycott Place to which I had been
bidden was to take rank as a historic meal. Mr. Maxse has told the
story of it in the pages of the _National Review_, and of how the
movement was there started by which the Unionist leaders were got
together from various quarters to bring pressure on the Government not
to leave France in the lurch, a movement which culminated in Mr. Bonar
Law's famous letter to Mr. Asquith.

On meeting General Wilson at the War Office about noon he told me that
I was to take his place as Director of Military Operations in case of
mobilization, and he asked me to join as soon as possible. He further
made me acquainted with the political situation, with the very
unsatisfactory attitude which a proportion of the Cabinet were
disposed to take up, and with the steps which Messrs. George Lloyd,
Amery, Maxse, and others were taking to mobilize the Opposition
leaders and to compel the Government to play the game. In the last
conversation that I ever had with Lord Roberts, two or three days
before the great Field-Marshal paid the visit to the Front which was
so tragically cut short, he spoke enthusiastically of the services of
Lloyd (now Sir George) on this occasion. In consequence of what I had
learnt I joined at the War Office for duty on the Monday, although the
arrangement was irregular and purely provisional for the moment,
seeing that it had not yet been decided whether mobilization was to be
ordained or not. But I found Wilson in much more buoyant mood after
the week-end of anxiety, for he believed that Mr. Bonar Law's letter
had proved the decisive factor. By this time we moreover knew that
Germany had already violated the neutrality of Luxemburg and was
threatening Belgium openly.

I ought to mention here that this appointment to the post of Director
of Military Operations came as a complete surprise--my not having been
warned well in advance had been due to an oversight; up to within a
few months earlier, when I had ceased to belong to the Reserve of
Officers, having passed the age-limit for colonels, my fate in the
event of general mobilization was to have been something high up on
the staff of the Home Defence Army. One could entertain no illusions.
Heavy responsibilities were involved in taking up such an appointment
on the eve of war. After five years of civil life it was a large order
to find myself suddenly thrust into such a job and to be called upon
to take up charge of a War Office Directorate which I knew was
overloaded. Ever since 1904, ever since the date when this Directorate
had been set up by the Esher Committee as one item in the
reconstitution of the office as a whole and when my section of the old
Intelligence Division had been absorbed into it, I had insisted that
this composite branch was an overburdened and improperly constituted
one.

For the Esher triumvirate had amalgamated "operations" and
"intelligence," while they had deposited "home defence" in the
Military Training Directorate. It was an absurd arrangement in
peace-time, and one that was wholly unadapted to the conditions of a
great war. Lord Esher and his colleagues would seem, however, to have
been actuated by a fear lest the importance of home defence should
overshadow that of preparation for oversea warfare if the two sets of
duties were in one hand, and, inasmuch as they were making a start
with the General Staff at Headquarters and bearing in mind former
tendencies, they may have been right. They, moreover, hardly realized
perhaps that intelligence must always be the handmaid of operations,
and that it is in the interest of both that they should be kept quite
distinct. It was natural that the first Chief of the General Staff to
be appointed, Sir N. Lyttelton, should have hesitated to overset an
organization which had been so recently laid down and which had been
accepted by the Government as it stood, even if he recognized its
unsuitability; but I have never been able to understand how his
successors, Sir W. Nicholson and Sir J. French, failed to effect the
rearrangement of duties which a sound system of administration
imperatively called for. That my predecessors, Generals "Jimmy"
Grierson, Spencer Ewart, and Henry Wilson, made no move in the matter
is rendered the more intelligible to me by the fact that I took no
steps in the matter myself, even when the need for a reorganization
was driven home by the conditions brought about in the War Office
during the early months of the Great War. Somehow one feels no
irresistible impulse to abridge one's functions and to depreciate
one's importance by one's own act, to lop off one's own members, so to
speak. But when Sir W. Robertson turned up at the end of 1915 to
become C.I.G.S. he straightway split my Directorate in two, and he
thus put things at last on a proper footing.

The incongruity of the Esher organization had, it may be mentioned,
been well illustrated by an episode that occurred very shortly after
the reconstitution of the War Office had been carried into effect in
the spring of 1904. Under the distribution of duties then laid down,
my section of the Operations Directorate dealt _inter alia_, with
questions of coast defence in connection with our stations abroad,
while a section of the Military Training Directorate dealt _inter
alia_ with questions of coast defence in connection with our stations
at home. It came about that the two sections issued instructions
simultaneously about the same thing, and the instructions issued by
the two sections were absolutely antagonistic. The consequence was
that coast defence people at Malta came to be doing the thing one way,
while those at Portsmouth came to be doing it exactly the opposite
way, and that the War Office managed to give itself away and to expose
itself to troublesome questionings. The blunder no doubt could be put
down to lack of co-ordination; but the primary cause was the existence
of a faulty organization under which two different branches at
Headquarters were dealing with the one subject.

The earliest experiences in the War Office in August 1914 amounted, it
must be confessed, almost to a nightmare. There were huge maps working
on rollers in my spacious office, and in particular there was one of
vast dimensions portraying what even then was coming to be called the
Western Front. During the week or so that elapsed before G.H.Q. of the
Expeditionary Force proceeded to the theatre of war, its cream thought
fit to spend the hours of suspense in creeping on tiptoe in and out of
my apartment, clambering on and off a table which fronted this
portentous map, discussing strategical problems in blood-curdling
whispers, and every now and then expressing an earnest hope that this
sort of thing was not a nuisance. It was a most intolerable nuisance,
but they were persons of light and leading who could not be addressed
in appropriate terms. As hour to hour passed, and H.M. Government
could not make up its mind to give the word "go" to the Expeditionary
Force, G.H.Q.'s language grew stronger and stronger until the walls
resounded with expletives. It was not easy to concentrate one's
attention upon questions arising in the performance of novel duties in
a time of grave emergency under such conditions, and it was a genuine
relief when the party took itself off to France.

One was too busy to keep notes of what went on in those days and I am
not sure of exact dates, but I think that it was on the 6th of August
that a wire, which seemed on the face of it to be trustworthy, came to
hand from a German port, to the effect that transports and troops were
being collected there to convey a military force somewhither. This
message caused the Government considerable concern and very nearly
delayed the despatch of the Expeditionary Force across the Channel.
One was too new to the business to take the proper steps to trace the
source of that message, which, as far as I remember, purported to
emanate from one of our consuls; but I have a strong suspicion that
the message was faked--was really sent off by the Germans. Lord
Kitchener had taken up the appointment of Secretary of State that
morning, and in the afternoon he walked across Whitehall, accompanied
by my immediate chief, Sir C. Douglas the C.I.G.S., General Kiggell,
and myself, to discuss the position with Mr. Churchill and the chiefs
of the Admiralty in the First Lord's room. Whitehall was rendered
almost impassable by a mass of excited citizens, and Lord Kitchener on
being recognized was wildly cheered. Nothing could have been clearer
and more reassuring than Mr. Churchill's exposition of the naval
arrangements to meet any attempt at a landing on our shores, and any
one of the War Office quartette who may have been troubled with
qualms--I had felt none myself--must have had his anxiety allayed.

It will not be out of place to refer here to one aspect of the virtual
emasculation of the General Staff at the War Office on mobilization
that has not perhaps quite received the attention that it deserves.
That, in spite of his being Director of Military Operations in
Whitehall, General Wilson very properly accompanied the Expeditionary
Force will hardly be disputed. He had established close and cordial
relations with the French higher military authorities, he could talk
French like a Parisian, he had worked out the details of the
concentration of our troops on the farther side of the Channel months
before, and he probably knew more about the theatre where our
contingent was expected to operate than any man in the army. But he
was not the only member of the Military Operations Directorate staff
who disappeared; he took his right-hand man and his left-hand man in
respect to actual operations with him. Nevertheless, as I was pretty
familiar with the working of the War Office, and as the planting down
of the Expeditionary Force beyond Le Cateau was effected, practically
automatically, by the Movements branch under the Quartermaster-General,
operations question in respect to the war in the West gave no great
trouble until my Directorate had had time to settle down after a
fashion in its new conditions.

But the Intelligence side of General Wilson's Directorate included a
branch which dealt with a number of matters with which no Director
brought in from outside was likely to be well acquainted, and about
which I knew nothing at all. Very few officers in the regular army are
conversant with international law. Nor used they, in the days before
1914, to interest themselves in the status of aliens when the country
is engaged in hostilities, nor with problems of censorship of the post
and telegraph services, nor with the relations between the military
and the Press, nor yet with the organization, the maintenance, and the
duties of a secret service. Before mobilization, all this was in the
hands of a section under the D.M.O. which was in charge of Colonel
(now Lieut.-General Sir G.) Macdonogh, who had made a special study
of these matters, and who had devised a machinery for performing a
number of duties in this country which on the outbreak of war
necessarily assumed a cardinal importance and called for efficient
administration at the hands of a large personnel, only to be got
together when the emergency arose. But Colonel Macdonogh on
mobilization took up an important appointment with the Expeditionary
Force, and went off to France, carrying off his assistants with him.
As far as personnel was concerned, this cupboard was left as bare as a
fashionable lady's back when _en grande tenue_ in "Victory Year."
Charge of it was assumed by an extremely capable and energetic
substitute brought in from outside (Colonel D. L. MacEwen), who,
however, suffered under the disability of knowing practically nothing
about the peculiar class of work which he was suddenly called upon to
take up.

As an example of the extreme inconvenience which this caused, the
following somewhat comical incident may be related. Three or four days
after the declaration of war a brace of very distinguished civil
servants, one representing the Foreign Office and the other the Home
Office, came across Whitehall by appointment and with long faces, and
the four of us sat solemnly round a table--they, Colonel MacEwen, and
I. It appeared that we had been guilty of terrifying violations of
international law. We had seized numbers of German reservists and
German males of military age on board ships in British ports, and had
consigned some of them to quarters designed for the accommodation of
malefactors. This sort of thing would never do. Such steps had not
been taken by belligerents in 1870, nor at the time of the American
War of Secession, and I am not sure that Messrs. Mason and Slidell
were not trotted out. The Foreign and Home Secretaries, the very
distinguished civil servants declared, would not unlikely be agitated
when they heard of the shocking affair. Soldiers, no doubt, were by
nature abrupt and unconventional in their actions, and the Foreign and
Home Offices would make every allowance, realizing that we had acted
in good faith. But, hang it all--and they gazed at us in compassionate
displeasure.

Will it be believed? My assistant and I knew so little about our
business that we did not fall upon that pair of pantaloons and rend
them. We took them and their protestation quite seriously. We accepted
their courteous, but uncompromising, rebuke like small boys caught
stealing apples, whose better feelings have been appealed to. For the
space of two or three hours, and until we had pulled ourselves
together, we remained content, on the strength of doctrines enunciated
by a couple of officials fossilized by having dwelt in a groove for
years, to accept it as a principle that this tremendous conflict into
which the Empire had been plunged at a moment's notice was to be a
kid-glove transaction. Within three weeks the Foreign Office and the
Home Office were, however, praying us in the War Office for goodness'
sake to take all questions in connection with the internment and so
forth of aliens entirely off their hands because they could make
nothing of the business.

The above reference to my having been virtually left in the lurch with
regard to these, to me, occult matters is not made by way of
complaint. It is made because it illustrates with signal force how
completely the relative importance of the Expeditionary Force as
compared to the task which the War Office had to face had been
misunderstood when framing plans in advance for the anticipated
emergency. Colonel Macdonogh became head of Sir J. French's
Intelligence Department in the field. That was a very important
appointment and one for which he was admirably fitted, but it was one
which many other experienced officers in the army could have
effectually filled. The appointment at the War Office which he gave up
was one which no officer in the army was so well qualified--nor nearly
so well qualified--to hold as he was, and it was at the outbreak of
war incomparably the more important appointment of the two. The
arrangement arrived at in respect to this matter indicated, in fact, a
strange lack of sense of proportion. It argued a fundamental
misconception of the military problem with which the country was
confronted.

In his book, "_1914_," in which he finds so much to say in
disparagement of Lord Kitchener, Lord French has very frankly admitted
his inability to foresee certain tactical developments in connection
with heavy artillery and so forth, which actual experience in the
field brought home to him within a few weeks of the opening of
hostilities. Most of the superior French and German military
authorities who held sway in the early days of the struggle would
probably similarly plead guilty, for nobody in high places anticipated
these developments. The Field-Marshal, on the other hand, makes no
reference to any failure on his part to realize in advance the
relatively insignificant part which our original Expeditionary Force
would be able to play in the great contest. He makes no admission as
to a misconception with regard to the paramount problem which faced
the British military authorities as a whole after mobilization was
decreed. He would not seem to have been aware, when a conflict of
first-rate magnitude came upon us, that the creation of a great
national army was of far greater consequence than the operations of
the small body of troops which he took with him into the field. The
action taken in connection with the personnel of the General Staff in
Whitehall is significant evidence of the extent to which the whole
situation had been misinterpreted.

It may be urged that Sir J. French (as he then was) was not
responsible. He had--under circumstances which will not have been
forgotten--ceased to be Chief of the Imperial General Staff some four
months before war broke out. But Sir Charles Douglas, who had then
taken his place, although a resolute, experienced soldier, equipped
with an almost unique knowledge of the army, was a deliberate,
cautious Scot; he was the very last man to shirk responsibility and to
shelter himself behind somebody else, but, on the other hand, he was
not an impatient thruster who would be panting to be--in gunner's
parlance--"re-teaming the battery before the old major was out of the
gate." He accepted, and he was indeed bound to accept, the ideas of a
predecessor of the highest standing in the Service, who had made a
special study of campaigning possibilities under the conditions which
actually arose in August 1914, and under whose aegis definite plans
and administrative arrangements to meet the case had been elaborated
beforehand with meticulous care. Enjoying all the advantages arising
from having made a close study of the subject and from having an
Intelligence Department brimming over with detailed information at his
beck and call, Sir J. French entirely failed to grasp the extent and
nature of the war in its early days. Lord Kitchener did. Suddenly
summoned to take supreme military charge, a stranger to the War Office
and enjoying none of Sir J. French's advantages, the new Secretary of
State mastered the realities of the position at once by some sort of
instinct, perceived what a stupendous effort would have to be made,
took the long view from the start, and foretold that the struggle
would last some years.

It must have been about the 11th of August, three days before G.H.Q.
crossed the Channel, that I went in with Sir John to see Colonel
Dallas, the head of my Intelligence section dealing with Germany. One
had been too busy during the previous few days to bother much about
the German army, and at the time I knew little more about that
formidable fighting machine than what was told in books of reference
like the _Statesman's Year-book_, which gave full particulars about
First Line Troops, but said uncommonly little about Reserve
Formations. Information with regard to these could only be obtained
from secret sources. What we were told by Dallas was a revelation to
me. There seemed to be no end to the enemy's fighting resources. He
kept on producing fresh batches of Reserve Divisions and Extra-Reserve
Divisions, like a conjurer who produces huge glass bowls full of
goldfish out of his waistcoat pocket. He seemed to be doing it on
purpose--one felt quite angry with the man. But it was made plain to
me that we were up against a tougher proposition than I had imagined.
The Field-Marshal must have been, or at all events ought to have been,
perfectly well aware of all this, seeing that he had been C.I.G.S. up
till very recently, and had devoted special attention to the problems
involved in a war with Germany.

In a foot-note near the end of "_1914_," Lord French mentions having,
on some occasion during the few days when war was still trembling in
the balance, suggested to Lord Kitchener that they should repair
together to the Prime Minister and propose that Lord Kitchener should
be commander-in-chief of the field army, with him (French) as Chief of
Staff. That was a self-sacrificing suggestion; but it surely indicates
an absence of what Lord Haldane calls "clear thinking." Sir J. French
had been organizing and training the Expeditionary Force for some
years previously, knew all about it, was acquainted with its generals
and staffs, was up-to-date in connection with progress in tactical
details, and had studied the strategical situation in Belgium and
France. Lord Kitchener had, on the other hand, been in civil
employment and out of touch with most military questions for some
considerable time previously. Lord Kitchener would have been thrown
away commanding the Expeditionary Force. He was needed for the much
more important position which he actually took up.



CHAPTER II

EARLY DAYS AT THE WAR OFFICE

     Plan of issuing _communiqués_ given up owing to the disposition
     to conceal reverses that manifested itself -- Direct telephonic
     communication with the battlefield in Belgium -- A strange
     attempt to withhold news as to the fall of Brussels -- Anxiety
     during the retreat from Mons -- The work of the Topographical
     Section at that time -- Arrival of refugee officers and other
     ranks at the War Office -- One of the Royal Irish affords
     valuable information -- Candidates for the appointment of
     "Intelligence Officer" -- How one dealt with recommendations in
     regard to jobs -- Linguists -- The discoverer of interpreters,
     fifty produced as if by magic -- The Boy Scouts in the War Office
     -- An Admirable Crichton -- The scouts' effective method of
     handling troublesome visitors -- Army chaplains in embryo -- A
     famous cricketer doing his bit -- A beauty competition outside my
     door -- The Eminent K.C. -- An impressive personality -- How he
     benefits the community -- The Self-Appointed Spy-Catcher -- Gun
     platforms concealed everywhere -- The hidden dangers in disused
     coal mines in Kent -- Procuring officers for the New Armies --
     "Bill" Elliot's unorthodox methods -- The Military Secretary's
     branch meets with a set-back -- Visits from Lord Roberts -- His
     suggestion as to the commander-in-chiefship in China -- His last
     visit -- The Antwerp business -- The strategical situation with
     regard to the Belgian field army -- The project of our Government
     -- The despatch of the Seventh Division and the Third Cavalry
     Division to Belgian Flanders -- Organization of base and line of
     communications overlooked -- A couple of transports "on their
     own" come to a halt on the Goodwins -- Difficulty of the
     strategical situation -- Death of Sir C. Douglas.


It will be remembered that although our troops were not engaged during
the first fortnight of the war, and were indeed never likely to be
engaged so early, events moved quickly on the Western Front, and that
the set-back encountered by the Germans when they tried to smother
Liège without bringing up heavy artillery aroused a certain enthusiasm
in this country. On taking stock of my duties, it had appeared to me
that one of these would be the issue of reasoned _communiqués_ to the
Press from time to time, and I actually drafted one, designed to
convey a warning as to excessive jubilation over incidents such as the
momentary success of the defending side in the struggle for the
stronghold on the Meuse, which appeared in all the newspapers. The
following passage occurred in it: "The exaggeration into important
triumphs of minor episodes in which the Allies are alleged to have
gained the upper hand is misleading." But it speedily became apparent
that the powers that be did not mean to be expansive in connection
with incidents where our side was getting the worst of it, so the plan
of issuing _communiqués_ was abandoned almost at once.

One soon learnt that Belgian resistance was being brushed aside by the
enemy with comparative ease, and that such delay as the invaders had
suffered before Liège did not very appreciably interfere with the
plans of the German Great General Staff. Going one afternoon into the
room occupied by the head of my Intelligence section which was charged
with French and Belgian affairs, I found him on his telephone and
holding up his hand to enjoin silence. He was speaking with the late
General "Sandy" Du Cane, our representative with King Albert's forces
in the field, who was at the moment actually on the battlefield and
under fire. While I was in the room, Du Cane wound up the conversation
with; "They're giving way all along the line. I'm off." A day or two
after this the Boches were in Brussels, and one realized that our
Expeditionary Force must very soon be in the thick of it.

For some reason or other those in the highest places at the War Office
hesitated to allow the news that Brussels had fallen to leak out to
the public--an attitude at which the newspaper editors were not
unnaturally incensed--and Mr. F. E. Smith, now Lord Birkenhead, who
was head of the Press Bureau, came to see me that evening, and was
outspoken as to the absurdity of this sort of thing. The matter did
not, however, rest in my hands. The secretiveness in connection with
reverses and contretemps which prevailed at that time, and which
continued to prevail during the first year and a half of the
war--during the very period when I had certain responsibilities in
connection with such matters myself--seemed to me then, and seems to
me now, to have been a mistake. It did our cause considerable harm, it
delayed the putting forth of the full fighting strength of the British
nation, it created irritation in the country when it came to be
detected, and it even at times caused official reports which were
perfectly in accordance with the facts to be regarded with suspicion.
The point will be touched upon again in later chapters.

Then came those grey days when we knew that the Entente plan of
campaign had broken down, that the forces on our side were not
satisfactorily disposed for staying the hostile rush, that the French
were unable to hold their ground, and that our little army were sore
beset and in full retreat before superior hosts. King's Messengers,
the Duke of Marlborough and Major Hankey, came to see me, and told me
of the atmosphere of grave anxiety prevalent at G.H.Q. A message from
General Henry Wilson, written in pencil late at night on a leaf of a
notebook, reached me, of so ominous a character (seeing that he
assuredly was not one to quail) that I never showed it to anybody--not
even to my chief, Sir C. Douglas. And yet, one felt somehow that we
should pull through in spite of all, and even though the demands
coming to hand for maps of regions in the very heart of France
certainly conveyed no encouragement. One regretted that the country
was being kept so much in the dark--the best is never got out of the
Anglo-Saxon race until it is in a tight place. A special edition of
the _Times_, issued on Sunday morning the 30th of August, which
contained a somewhat lurid account of the retreat by some hysterical
journalist, and which, it turned out, had been doctored by the head of
the Press Bureau, caused great anger in some quarters. But for my
part I rather welcomed it. Anything that would help to bring home to
the public what they were up against was to the good. Whoever first
made use of that pestilent phrase "business as usual," whether it was
a Cabinet Minister, or a Fleet Street scribe, or some gag-merchant on
the music-hall stage, had much to answer for.

The Topographical Section under Colonel Hedley did fine work during
those troubled days before the Battle of the Marne. It was in the
highest degree gratifying to find a branch, for which one found
oneself suddenly after a fashion responsible, to be capable of so
promptly and effectually meeting emergencies. The Expeditionary Force
had taken with it generous supplies of maps portraying the regions
adjacent to the Franco-Belgian frontier, where it proposed to operate;
a somewhat hasty retreat to a point right away back, south-east of
Paris, had formed no part of its programme. A day or two after the
first clash of arms near Mons, a wire arrived demanding the instant
despatch of maps of the country as far to the rear as the Seine and
the Marne. Now, as all units had to be supplied on a liberal scale,
this meant hundreds of copies of each of a considerable number of
different large-scale sheets, besides hundreds of copies of two or
three more general small-scale sheets; nevertheless, the consignment
was on its way before midnight. A day or two later G.H.Q. wired for
maps as far back as Orleans, a day or two later, again, for maps as
far as the mouth of the Loire, and yet a day or two later, for maps
down to Bordeaux--this last request representing thousands of sheets.
But on each occasion the demand was met within a few hours and without
the slightest hitch. It was a remarkable achievement--an achievement
attributable in part to military foresight dating back to the days
when Messrs. Asquith, Lloyd George, Churchill and Co., either
deliberately or else as a result of sheer ignorance and ineptitude,
were deceiving their countrymen as to the gravity of the German
menace, an achievement attributable also in part to military
administrative efficiency of a high order in a time of crisis. The
Topographical Section, it should be added, was able to afford highly
appreciated assistance to our French and Belgian allies in the matter
of supplying them with maps of their own countries.

During the first two or three weeks after fighting started, waifs and
strays who had been run over by the Boches, but who had picked
themselves up somehow and had fetched up at the coast, used to turn up
at the War Office and to find their way to my department. For some
reason or other they always presented themselves after dinner--like
the coffee. The first arrival was a young cavalry officer, knocked
off his horse in the preliminary encounters by what had evidently
been the detonation of a well-pitched-up high-explosive, and who was
still suffering from a touch of what we now know as shell-shock. He
proved to be the very embodiment of effective military training,
because, although he was to the last degree vague as to how he had got
back across the Channel and only seemed to know that he had had a bath
at the Cavalry Club, he was able to give most useful and detailed
information as to what he had noted after recovering consciousness
while making his way athwart the German trains and troops in reserve
as they poured along behind Von Kluck's troops in front line. One
observed the same thing in the case of another cavalry officer who
arrived some days later, after a prolonged succession of tramps by
night from the Sambre to Ostend. "You'll sleep well to-night," I
remarked when thanking him for the valuable information that he had
been able to impart--and of a sudden he looked ten years older. "I
couldn't sleep a wink last night at Ostend," he muttered in a
bewildered sort of way, "and I don't feel as if I'd ever sleep again."

We did not wear uniform in the War Office for the first month or so,
and one night about this time, on meeting a disreputable and
suspicious-looking character on the stairs, garbed in the vesture
affected by the foreign mechanic, I was debating whether to demand of
the interloper what he was doing within the sacred precincts, when he
abruptly accosted me with: "I say, d'you happen to know where in this
infernal rabbit-warren a blighter called the Something of Military
Operations hangs out?" His address indicated him to be a refugee
officer looking for my department.

These prodigals had such interesting experiences to recount that, in a
weak moment, I gave instructions for them to be brought direct to me,
and about 10 P.M. one night, when there happened to be a lot of
unfinished stuff to be disposed of before repairing homewards, a
tarnished-looking but otherwise smart and well-set-up private soldier
was let loose on me. A colloquy somewhat as follows ensued:

"What regiment?"

"The Rile Irish, sorr." (He said this as if there was no other
regiment--they always do.)

"Ah! Well, and how have you got along back here?"

"Sorr, it's the truth I'm tellin' ye, sorra ilse. Sure wasn't I
marchin' and fightin' and hidin' and craalin' for wakes and wakes"
(the Royal Irish could only have detrained at Le Cateau about ten days
before) "before I gits to that place as they calls Boulong--a gran'
place, sorr, wid quays and thruck like it was the North Waal--an' a
fellah takes me to the Commandant, sorr, where I seen a major-man wid
red tabs an' an eye like Polly-famous. 'Sorr,' sez I to him, sez I;
sez I, 'it's gittin' back to the rigimint I'd be afther,' sez I.
'Ye'll not,' sez he, 'divil a stir,' sez he; 'ye'll go to Lunnon,' sez
he. 'Will I?' sez I. 'Ye will,' sez he; 'take him down to the boat at
wanst, sergeant,' sez he, and the sergeant right turns me and marches
me out. 'Sergeant dear,' sez I, 'sure why can't I be gittin' back to
the rigimint?' sez I. 'Agh, t'hell out o' that,' sez he; 'sure didn't
ye hear what the major bin and said?' sez he, an' he gin me over to a
carpral--one on thim ogly Jocks, sorr--an' down we goes by the quays
to the boat--a gran' boat, sorr, wid ladies an' childer an' Frinch an'
Bilgians, an' all sorts, as minded me on the ould _Innisfallen_. D'y'
iver know the ould _Innisfallen_, sorr, as sails from Carrk to some
place as I misremember the name on, sorr?"

"Crossed over on her once from Cork to Milford."

"Ye did, yer honour--sorr, I mane? Glory be to God--to think o' that!
Well, sorr, I'd a sup of tay at one on thim shtahls, sorr, an' the
Jock gives me me papers an' puts me aboard, sorr. It's mostly onaisy
in me inside I am, sorr, on the say, but it was beautiful calm
an'----"

"Yes, yes; but look here--Where was it you left your regiment?"

"Is it me, sorr? Me lave me rigimint, sorr? Me wid three years' sarvis
an' sorra intry in my shate at all, only two, wan time I was dthronk
wid a cowld in me nose, sorr. Me lave me rigimint? It was the rigimint
lift me, sorr. As I tell ye just now, we'd bin marchin' an' fightin'
for wakes and wakes, an' it was tired I was, sorr, bate I was, an' we
was havin' a halt, sorr; an' I sez to Mick Shehan from Mallow, as is
in my platoon, 'Mick,' sez I. 'Tim,' sez he, wid his mouth full of
shkoff. 'Mick,' sez I, 'it's gwan to have a shlape, I am,' sez I, 'an'
ye'll wake me, Mick darlint, when the fall-in goes.' 'Begob an' why
wouldn't I, Tim,' sez he, 'so I ain't shlapin' mysilf?' sez he. 'Ye'll
no forgit, Mick,' sez I. 'Agh, shut yer mouth, why would I be the wan
to forgit?' sez he. But whin I wuk up, the divil a rigimint was there
at all, at all, only me, sorr; an' there was a lot of quare-lookin'
chaps as I sinsed by the look on thim was Jarmins. I was concealed by
a ditch,[1] an' settin' down by a bit o' whin, I was, sorr, or they
seen me for sure. 'Phwat'll I do at all?' sez I to mysilf, sez I,
an'--"

                   [Footnote 1: _Anglice_, bank.]

"Just stop a minute; where was all this?"

"Where was it? Why, in Fraance, sorr, where ilse would it be? Well,
sorr, as I was just startin' to tell ye, there was a lot of
quare-lookin' chaps as I sinsed by the look of thim was Jarmins,
an'----"

"Yes, but good Lord, man, what was the name of the place in France
where all this happened?"

"Place is it, sorr? Sure it wasn't any place at all, but one of thim
kind of places as the name on has shlipped me mimry, a bog,
sorr--leastways it wasn't a bog as ye'd rightly call a bog in
Oireland, sorr--no turf nor there wasn't no wather. I mind now, sorr!
It was what the chaps at the 'Shott calls a 'hathe,' sorr. There was
trees contagious, an' whins; sure wasn't I tellin' ye just now as I
was settin' down by a bit of whin, sorr----"

But it had been borne in on me that this had become a young man's job,
so I succeeded, not without some difficulty, in consigning the gallant
Royal Irishman--still pouring forth priceless intelligence
material--into the hands of a messenger to be taken to the officer on
duty. Manuals of instruction that deal with the subject of eliciting
military information in time of war impress upon you that the Oriental
always wants to tell you what he thinks you want him to tell you. But
the Irishman tells you what he wants to tell you himself, and it isn't
the least use trying to stop him.

The Intelligence Department being--directly at home and indirectly
abroad--under my control, I was much sought after in the early days,
was almost snowed under, indeed, with applications and recommendations
for the post of "Intelligence Officer." Bigwigs within the War Office
itself, when they were bothered on paper about people, simply passed
the note along as it stood with "D.M.O., can you do anything for this
creature?" or something of that sort, scribbled in blue pencil at the
top. One was treated as if one was a sort of unemployment bureau.
Qualifications for this particular class of post turned out to be of
the most varied kind. One young gentleman, who was declared to be a
veritable jewel, was described as a pianist, fitted out with
"technique almost equal to a professional." The leading characteristic
of another candidate appeared to be his liability to fits. Algy, "a
dear boy and _so_ good-looking," had spent a couple of months in Paris
after leaving Eton a year or two back. This sounds terribly like
petticoat influence; but resisting petticoat influence is, I can assure
you, child's play compared to resisting Parliamentary influence. For
good, straightforward, unblushing, shan't-take-no-for-an-answer
jobbery, give me the M.P. They are sublime in their hardihood.

My experience in these Whitehall purlieus during the war perhaps
provides some explanation of the theory, so sedulously hugged by the
community, that interest and influence are all-powerful inside the War
Office portals. To be invited to take a hand in obtaining jobs for
people about whom one knew nothing and cared less, in services with
which one had no connection, was a daily event. The procedure that was
followed in such cases was automatic and appropriate. A reply would be
dictated intimating that one would do what one could--a mere form of
words, needless to say, as one had not the slightest intention of
doing anything. And yet, as often as not, there would be a
disconcerting sequel. Profuse outpourings of gratitude in letter form
would come to hand, two or three weeks later: Jimmy had got his job,
entirely owing to one's efforts in his behalf: the memory of one's
services in this sacred cause would be carried to the grave: might
Jimmy call and express his feeling of obligation in person? One had
not the faintest recollection of what all the bother was about; but it
was easy to dictate another letter expressing one's gratification at
the recognition of Jimmy's merits and one's heartfelt regret that
owing to stress of work one would be unable to grant him an audience.
To hint that the appointment had presumably been made by the
responsible official, on the strength of an application received from
Jimmy in proper form, that there had been no wheels within wheels, and
that backstairs had never got beyond the first landing, would have
been disobliging.

Some applicants for "intelligence work" possessed, or gave out that
they possessed, the gift of tongues, and the provision of interpreters
was one of the many duties which had to be performed by the huge
agglomeration of branches over which I exercised--or was supposed to
exercise--sway. The subordinate charged with the provision had been
retrieved from the Reserve of Officers and business pursuits, but
retained the instincts of the soldier--a man with all his wits about
him, but who sometimes positively frightened one by his unconventional
procedure. One hardly likes to say such a thing of a man behind his
back, but I really would not have been surprised to hear that, because
he had been unable to concur in the views set out on it by other
branches, he had put one of those bloated War Office files, on which
one more or less automatically expresses dissent with the last minute
without reading the remainder, into the fire. He made up his mind in a
moment, which was irregular; and he generally made it up right, which
was unprecedented. Experts in many outlandish vernaculars had to be
found from the start, and he always managed to produce the article
required at the shortest notice. As a matter of fact, he had laid
hands upon a tame professor, whom he kept immured in a fastness
somewhere in the attics, and who was always prepared to vouch for the
proficiency of anybody in any language when required to do so.

The first Divisions of the "Old Contemptibles" to proceed to the
Continent were fitted out with interpreters by the French. But, for
some reason or other, a Division going out to the front some few weeks
later had not been prepared for, and so we suddenly found that we had
to furnish it with its linguists at this end. But the chief of the
subsection responsible for finding them proved fully equal to the
occasion. "How many d'you want, sir?" he demanded. I intimated that
the authorized establishment was about seventy, but that if we could
find fifty under the circumstances we should have done very well.
"I'll have them ready early to-morrow, sir," he remarked, as if it
was the most ordinary thing in the world--and he did. For, next
morning the passages in the immediate vicinity of the room which he
graced with his presence were congested with swarms of individuals,
arrayed in the newest of new uniforms and resplendent in the lightest
of light brown belts and gaiters, who were bundled off unceremoniously
to regiments and batteries and staffs on the eve of departure for the
seat of war. It is quite true that some generals and colonels in this
Division wrote from France to complain that their interpreters did not
know French, or if they did know French, did not know English. Still,
nobody takes that sort of croaking seriously. In a grumbling match the
British officer can keep his end up against the British soldier any
day.

An excellent innovation at the War Office synchronizing with
mobilization was the introduction of a large number of boy scouts
within its gates. They proved most reliable and useful, and did the
utmost credit to the fine institution for which we have to thank Sir
Robert Baden-Powell. A day or two after joining I wanted to make the
acquaintance of a colonel, who I found was under me in charge of a
branch--a new hand like myself, but whose apartment nobody in the
place could indicate. A War Office messenger despatched to find him
came back empty-handed. Another War Office messenger sent on the same
errand on the morrow proved no more successful. On the third day I
summoned a boy scout into my presence--a very small one--and commanded
him to find that colonel and not to come back without him. In about
ten minutes' time the door of my room was flung open, and in walked
the scout, followed by one of the biggest sort of colonels. "I did not
know what I had done or where I was being taken," remarked the
colonel, "but the boy made it quite clear that he wasn't going to have
any nonsense; so I thought it best to come quietly."

At a much later stage, one of these youngsters was especially told off
to a branch which I then controlled--an extraordinary boy, who
impressed one all the more owing to his looking considerably younger
than he really was. I seldom found anything that he did not know, and
never found anything that he could not do. This Admirable Crichton was
spangled all over well-earned badges, indicating his accomplishments.
We really might have gone off, the whole lot of us, masterful staff
officer, dainty registration clerks, highly efficient stenographer,
etc., and had a good time; he would have run the show perfectly well
without us--a Hirst, a Jimmy Wilde, a "Tetrarch," as he was amongst
scouts.

The plan that the lads adopted for making things uncomfortable for
troublesome people paid eloquent testimony to that fertility of
resource which it is one of the objects of the scout movement to
develop in its members. One of the greatest worries to which War
Office officials were exposed during these anxious times was a bent on
the part of individuals, whom they had not the slightest wish to see,
for demanding--and obtaining--interviews. The scouts tumbled to this
(if one may use so vulgar an expression) almost from the first day,
and they acted with rare judgement and determination. They chose
_lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch' entrate_ for their motto, and adopted
the method of herding the intruders into an unattractive apartment on
the ground floor, as tube attendants herd subterranean travellers into
the lifts, and of keeping the intruders there until they verged on a
condition of mutiny. They then enlarged them in big parties, each of
which was taken control of by a scout, who led his charges round and
round and in and out along the corridors, and up and down between
floors, carefully avoiding the elevators, until the victims were in a
state of physical and mental collapse. If one of the party quitted the
ranks while on the trek, to read the name marked up on some door that
he was passing, the scout called a halt and withered the culprit with
a scowl--it would never have done to permit that sort of thing,
because the visitor might conceivably have noticed the name of the
very official whom he had come to see. Anybody who came again after
undergoing this experience once, probably had just cause for demanding
an interview; but one bout of it satisfied most people. It may be
suggested that the scouts were acting under instructions from Sir
Reginald Brade, Secretary and Grand Master of the Ceremonies, in this
matter. But, if asked, he will own up and admit that in the pressure
of his duties he overlooked the point, and that the entire credit
belongs to the boys.

Still, perambulation of those furlongs of corridor in the big building
in Whitehall might have offered points of interest to a visitor not
too exhausted to take notice. By one window was usually to be seen a
posse of parsons, of furtive aspect, each nervously twiddling a lissom
hat, a love-your-neighbour-as-yourself look frozen on their
countenances, and not by any means conveying for the time being an
impression of the church militant: they were candidates for the post
of army chaplain, and were about to be inspected by the genial prelate
who presided over the department responsible for the spiritual welfare
of the troops. A day or two later might be seen in the same place some
of these very candidates, decked out in khaki raiment, hung about with
contrivances into which combatant comrades introduce implements for
slaying their fellow-men, erect, martial, terrifying, the very
embodiment of the church triumphant, having been accepted for the job
and awaiting orders--and no men have done finer service in the Great
Adventure.

At another point one encountered a very well-known cricketer, who was
doling out commissions. How he did it one had no time to ask. But one
strongly suspected that, if one of the young gentlemen whom he took in
hand had been in a school eleven or even house eleven (or said he
had), crooked ways somehow became straight.

Just outside my own door an attractive-looking civilian had devised a
sort of wigwam within which he took cover--one of those arrangements
with screens which second lieutenants prepare when there is a
regimental dance, and which they designate, until called to order, as
"hugging booths." There he was to be seen at any hour of the day in
close communion with a fascinating lady, heads close together,
murmuring confidences, an idyll in a vestibule--or rather a succession
of idylls, because there was a succession of ladies, all of them
different except in that all of them were charming. After two or three
months he disappeared, and only then did it occur to me to ask what
these intimate transactions were on which he had been engaged. It
transpired that he was acting vicariously on my behalf, that he was
selecting a staff for censorship duties or some such dull occupation,
in my place. If good looks were a qualification for such employment,
that civilian must have been troubled with an _embarras de richesses_.

Amongst the many privileges and responsibilities which my position in
the early months of the war thrust upon me was that of finding myself
in more or less official relations with the Eminent K.C. and with the
Self-Appointed Spy-Catcher. One may have had the good fortune in
pre-war times to meet the former, when disguised as a mere human
being--on the links, say, or at the dinner table. The latter, one came
into contact with for the first time.

The average soldier seldom finds himself associated with the Eminent
K.C. on parade, so to speak, in the piping times of peace. When
performing, and on the war-path as you might say, this successful limb
of the law is a portentous personage. Persuasive, masterful,
clean-shaven, he fixes you with his eye as the boa-constrictor
fascinates the rabbit. Pontifically, compassionately, almost
affectionately indeed, he makes it plain to you what an ass you in
reality are, and he looks so wise the while that you are hardly able
to bear it. He handles his arguments with such petrifying precision,
he marshals his facts so mercilessly, he becomes so elusive when you
approach the real point, and he grows so bewildering if he detects the
slightest symptoms of your having discovered what he is driving at,
that he will transform an elementary military question, which you in
your folly have presumed to think that you understand, into a problem
which a very Moltke would ignominiously fail to elucidate.

Contact with the Eminent K.C. under such conditions makes you realize
to the full what an inestimable boon lawyers confer upon their
fellow-citizens when they sink all personal ambition and flock into
the House of Commons for their country's good. It makes you rejoice in
that time-honoured arrangement under which the Lord Chancellorship is
the reward and recognition, not of mastery of the principles and
practice of jurisprudence, but of parliamentary services to a
political faction. It convinces you that the importance of judges and
barristers having holidays of a length to make the public-school-boy's
mouth water, immeasurably exceeds the importance of litigation being
conducted with reasonable despatch. It accounts for the dexterity
invariably displayed by Parliament when new enactments are placed on
the Statute-Book, for the simplicity of the language in which they are
couched, and for that minimum of employment to the legal profession to
which these specimens of masterly legislation subsequently give rise.
The Eminent K.C. is, by the way, reputed to be a somewhat expensive
luxury when you avail yourself of his services in your civil capacity,
but he must be well worth it. A man who can be so mystifying when he
proposes to be lucid must prove a priceless asset to his client when
he undertakes the task of bamboozling a dozen unhappy countrymen
penned in a box. It is hard to picture to yourself this impressive
figure giggling sycophantically at the pleasantries of a humorous
judge. But he must have conformed to convention in this matter in the
past, for how otherwise could he now be an Eminent K.C.?

During many months of acute national emergency, while the war was
settling into its groove, there was no more zealous, no more
persevering, and no more ineffectual subject of the King than the
Self-Appointed Spy-Catcher. You never know what ferocity means until
you have been approached by a titled lady who has persuaded herself
that she is on the track of a German spy. We Britons are given to
boasting of our grit in adversity and of our inability to realize when
we are beaten. In no class of the community were these national traits
more conspicuous in the early days of the war than in the ranks of the
amateur spy-catching fraternity and sisterhood--for the amateur
spy-catcher never caught a spy. Only after months of disappointment
and failure did these self-appointed protectors of their country begin
to abandon a task which they had taken up with enthusiastic fervour,
and which they had prosecuted with unfaltering resolution. Although it
was at the hands of the despised professional that enemy agents were
again and again brought to face the firing party in the Tower ditch,
the amateurs entertained, and perhaps still entertain, a profound
contempt for the official method. One fair member of the body, indeed,
so far forgot herself as to write in a fit of exasperation to say that
we must--the whole boiling of us--be in league with the enemy, and
that we ought to be "intered."

They were in their element when, after the fall of Maubeuge, it
transpired that the Germans had gun-platforms in certain factories
situated within range of the forts, that they had established ready
prepared for action should they be required. Anybody with an asphalt
lawn-tennis court then became suspect. A very bad case was reported
from the Chilterns, just the very sort of locality where Boches
contemplating invasion of the United Kingdom would naturally propose
to set up guns of big calibre. A building with a concrete base--many
buildings do have concrete bases nowadays--near Hampstead was the
cause of much excitement. When the unemotional official, sent to view
the place, suggested that the extremely solid structure overhead would
be rather in the way supposing that one proposed to emplace a gun, or
guns, on the concrete base, it was urged that there was a flat roof
and that ordnance mounted on it would dominate the metropolis. There
was a flat roof all right, but it turned out to be of glass.

A number of most worthy people were much concerned over the subject of
certain disused coal-mines in Kent, where, they had persuaded
themselves, the enemy had stored quantities of war material. What
precisely was the nature of the war material they did not
know--aircraft as like as not, the aviator finds the bottom of a
mine-shaft an ideal place to keep his machine. These catacombs were
duly inspected by an expert, but he could find nothing. The worthy
people thereupon declared that the penetralia had not been properly
examined and desired permission to carry out a searching inspection
themselves. They were, if I remember aright, told they might go down
the mines or might go to the devil (or words to that effect) for all
we cared. Had one not been so busy one could have got a good deal of
fun out of the Self-Appointed Spy-Catcher.

The Military Operations Directorate had nothing to do with the
formation and organization of the New Armies, but one heard a good
deal about their birth and infancy. Apart from the question of their
personal equipment, in regard to which the Quartermaster-General's
Department (with Lord Kitchener at its back and urging it forward)
performed such wonders, the most troublesome question in connection
with their creation in the early stages was the provision of officers;
the men were procured almost too fast. This became the business of the
Military Secretary's Department. The M.S. Department holds tenaciously
to the dogma that maladministration is the child of precipitancy and
that deliberation stamps official procedure with the hall-mark of
respectability. In later stages of the war one never was gazetted to
an appointment until after one had passed on to the next one. But a
gunner "dug-out," Colonel "Bill" Elliot, had been roped into the
Department on mobilization, having been similarly roped in during the
South African War, and by good luck the question of officers for the
New Armies was turned over to him.

A believer in the theory that the King's service has to be carried on
even in spite of regulations, he worked on lines of his own, and he
altered those lines when the occasion called for it. He was a
"mandarin," of course--everybody in a Government office is. He was to
some extent enmeshed in "red tape"--every step taken in a Government
office, from sending a note in acknowledgement of a written
communication, to losing a State paper at a moment when the safety of
the country depends upon its being available for reference, comes
within the category of "red tape." But he did get things done somehow,
thanks to some extent to his pronounced and never-failing sense of
humour. When one felt worried, weary, worn out, one only had to sit
opposite to him at lunch at the club and to listen to some of his
tales of manufacturing New Army officers, to be oneself again; it was
like a trip to Margate. Fortunately he either was given, or gave
himself, a free hand, and his quota was not the least considerable of
the many quotas from various quarters that contributed towards winning
the war.

As keeper of the Secretary of State's conscience when he has one, the
Military Secretary is bound to take himself very seriously indeed.
There is always something dignified and impressive about slow motion,
and his branch during the Great War was compelled to take up a firm
attitude in exacting the respect that was its due; "Bill," with his
eminently successful, but none the less abnormal and even lawless,
methods at times hardly seemed in the picture. It may be mentioned
that in spite of precautions the branch on at least one occasion met
with a deplorable affront. An officer, who had been secured by
tumultuary process during the early efforts to expand the land forces,
proved to be a disappointment and had to be invited to convert his
sword into a ploughshare. His reply is understood to have read
somewhat as follows:

     Sir--I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter of ----
     directing me to resign my commission. I will see you damned
     first.--Yours,
                                        ----.

New Army officers were so unconventional.

Lord Roberts often came to see me in those anxious early days at the
War Office, ever sympathetic, ever encouraging, ever confident. It had
not been my privilege while on the active list to be brought into
contact with him, except once, many years ago, when a young subaltern
at Kabul. But one day, it must have been in 1911, he sent me a message
asking me to call and see him at the Athenaeum. On my presenting
myself, and on our repairing to the little room by the door where
members of that exclusive establishment interviewed outsiders, he made
a somewhat unexpected proposal. A gentleman of progressive views
hailing from the Far East, called Sun Yat-sen,--one had seen his name
in the newspapers and had got the impression that he was a
revolutionary, out for trouble--was in England in search of arms, and
he required a commander-in-chief for the forces which he proposed to
raise for the purpose of bringing the Celestial Empire up to date.[2]
The Field-Marshal wanted me to take on the job. But the project
somehow did not appeal to me--people do say that the Chinese have
old-fashioned ways when they come to deal with persons whose conduct
they are unable to approve--and I no doubt cut but a poor figure when
manifesting no disposition to jump at the chance. "If I were only
forty years younger," exclaimed Lord Roberts, "I would go myself! Why,
you might be Emperor of China before you knew where you were!" But
even the prospect of a seat on the Peacock Throne failed to charm,
although I had an interview with Sun Yat-sen (who looked as if butter
would not melt in his mouth) at the Savoy Hotel; benefactors of the
human race coming from foreign parts always put up at that hostelry,
comfortable quarters are understood to be procurable. One could not,
however, but be impressed with the amazing vitality of the aged
Field-Marshal then, as also a year or two later when he used to come
to make enquiries concerning the progress of events in France.

                   [Footnote 2: He brought his revolution off all
                   right and was for a time President of the Southern
                   China Republic.]

He followed the movements of the contending armies closely, and he
always carried the details of the map and of the British order of
battle in his head, just as if he were a smart young staff-captain. At
critical junctures he used to call me up, between 9 P.M. and 10 P.M.,
from his house at Ascot on the telephone, eager for news. The last
time that I saw him was when he came to ask me to tell off some one
from my staff to accompany him to the front on the occasion of the
visit which in some respects ended so tragically, but which enabled
the great soldier to go to his rest within sound of the guns and
surrounded by the troops whom he had loved so well.

It was mentioned in the preceding chapter that the Military Operations
Directorate found little to do in connection with "operations"
question concerning the Western Front just at first, because the
concentration of the Expeditionary Force in the war zone was carried
out automatically and in accordance with plans worked out in advance.
Indeed almost the first time that such a question arose in at all
aggravated form was when the Antwerp affair got going. That was a
queer business altogether, and it seems necessary briefly to deal with
what most military men regard as an unfortunate transaction.

In so far as the Belgian forces as part of the Entente hosts in this
theatre of war were concerned, the strategical situation after the
great retreat appeared to demand imperatively that these must above
all things avoid, firstly, any risk of becoming cut off from their
French and British allies, and, secondly, the danger of finding
themselves trapped in the entrenched camp of Antwerp or of being
hustled up against the Dutch frontier on their way out of the
entrenched camp. The Belgian military authorities, as far as one could
make out at the time, appreciated the situation quite correctly--they
wished to abandon Antwerp, at all events with their field troops.
Problems such as those responsible on the Entente side were at this
time faced with, undoubtedly admit of difference of opinion; but most
soldiers will surely agree that the Belgian leaders deserve great
credit for not allowing themselves to be hypnotized by that huge place
of arms which General Brialmont had designed some forty years before,
and upon which vast sums of money had been laid out then and since. It
has to be remembered in this connection that the famous engineer had
always contemplated the retirement of his country's armies into the
stronghold, more or less as a matter of course, in case of invasion,
and that this had virtually been the military policy of Belgium up
till quite recently. Lord French has referred in "_1914_" to the
"terrible temptation" which Maubeuge offered to him at the time of the
retreat from Mons. If Maubeuge suggested itself as an asylum for the
hard-pressed Expeditionary Force, Antwerp would assuredly suggest
itself still more strongly as an asylum for King Albert's field army,
confronted as it was by an overwhelming hostile array and not in
direct contact with the troops under Joffre and Sir J. French.

It was then that those who were directing the British operations as a
whole suddenly intervened and induced the Belgians to alter their
plan. The very recently improvised Naval Division was set in motion
for Antwerp. Mr. Churchill, a bolt from the blue, appeared in the
city. And, instead of King Albert's forces getting clear in good time
and moving off, practically unmolested, to join the Anglo-French host
in Western Flanders, they only escaped by the skin of their teeth
after being roughly handled, and the all-important junction was
delayed so long that a most critical situation arose. Moreover, the
Seventh Division and a Cavalry Division were packed off in a hurry
from this country to help the Belgians out of a mess which they would
not have got into had they been left alone, instead of being sent to
join the Expeditionary Force where they were badly wanted. That is how
I read the proceedings at the time, and how I read them still.

War Office procedure did not at that stage conform to the methods
which had held good previous to mobilization, and which had been
devised to hold good in time of war; something further will be said on
the subject in a later chapter. The Director of Military Operations
did not on this particular occasion hear about the Seventh Division
and the cavalry being diverted to the Belgian coast until after
instructions for the move had been issued and the troops were
preparing to proceed to the port of embarkation. How far my chief, Sir
C. Douglas, concurred in this disposition of our limited available
fighting forces, how far he was consulted and what part he performed
in giving the orders, I do not know. I have no recollection of ever
discussing the matter with him. But there was a circumstance in
connection with the transaction which does suggest that the C.I.G.S.
did not play a very prominent rôle in the business.

Some time after I had learnt what was going forward--it was next day,
I think--the idea occurred to me to find out what steps had been, or
were being, taken to provide the necessary organization for a base and
line of communications for this force which was about to be projected
suddenly across the narrow seas. Enquiries elicited the startling
information that nothing whatever had been done in the matter; some of
those most concerned in such questions in Whitehall had not even heard
that the force was preparing to start. The problem, such as it was,
was promptly solved as soon as it was grappled with. The Directors
dealing with such subjects met in my room, and in a few minutes the
requisite staff had been selected, arrangements had been decided upon,
and orders had been despatched--it was as easy as falling downstairs
once machinery had been set in motion. But how came it that this had
not been thought of before? Now, I can quite understand Sir C. Douglas
holding that this particular phase of the Antwerp project, sending
Generals Capper and Byng with their divisions to sustain the Belgians
and the Naval Division by a landing at Zeebrugge, was a sound one from
the strategical point of view--such questions are necessarily
questions of opinion. But I cannot understand a master of military
administration such as he was, a soldier equipped with exceptional
knowledge of organization and with wide experience of the requirements
of a British army in the field, sending a considerable body of troops
off oversea to a theatre of operations, where fighting might be
expected almost as soon as they landed, without making provision for
their base and communications.

Actually, what turned out to be a tragic episode was not without some
little comic relief. There was consternation in Whitehall one evening,
just before the dinner-hour, when tidings arrived that a couple of the
transports conveying this force to its destination had passed the
rendezvous where the convoy was mustering, and were at large, heading
without escort or orders for a water-area known to be mined by both
sides, and where enemy destroyers and similar pests were apt to make
their appearance unexpectedly. Fortunately the panic was of short
duration. On returning to the office after dinner one learnt that the
straying vessels had both fetched up on the Goodwins--luckily about
low water--and were under control again.

In any criticism of H.M. Government's action in connection with the
Antwerp affair (as regards the prosecution of the war in the field,
H.M. Government for all practical purposes then meant Mr. Asquith,
Lord Kitchener, and Mr. Churchill) it must be allowed that the
situation at the time was a most complicated and perplexing one. Lord
French in his book makes it clear that, while he objected strongly to
the Seventh Division and the Third Cavalry Division being sent to the
Belgian coast under the independent command of Sir H. Rawlinson
instead of their being sent to Boulogne and placed under his own
orders, he did not wish Antwerp to be abandoned. Lord Kitchener had,
as a matter of fact, seized upon Antwerp as a means of inducing
reluctant colleagues to assent to the United Kingdom being denuded of
these regular troops and their being hurried to the theatre of war.
Knowing what we know now, it seems almost certain that, no matter
where the fresh troops from England turned up or whose orders they
were under, the Belgian army and the Naval Division would have been
lost for good and all had they not cleared out of the fortress when
they did. The verdict of history will probably be that both H.M.
Government and the commander of the British Expeditionary Force
misread the situation, that H.M. Government's misreading was very much
the graver of the two, that there was excuse for such misreadings when
the inevitable fog of war is taken into consideration, and that the
Germans threw away their chances and bungled the business worst of
all.

A few days after Antwerp had fallen, and a week or so before that
tremendous conflict which has come to be known as the First Battle of
Ypres was fairly launched, Sir C. Douglas, who for a long time past
had not been in the best of health and upon whom the strain had been
telling severely during the previous two and a half months, did not
make his appearance at the office one morning. He had struggled on
with splendid grit and determination almost to the very end, for he
died within a few days, a victim of devotion to duty and of overwork.
His place was taken by Sir J. Wolfe-Murray.



CHAPTER III

LORD KITCHENER'S START

     A first meeting with Lord Kitchener -- Sent up to see him in
     Pretoria by his brother under unpromising conditions -- The
     interview -- The Chief's pleasant reception -- A story of Lord K.
     from the Sudan -- An unpleasant interview with him in August 1914
     -- Rare meetings with him during the first two or three months --
     His ignorance of War Office organization -- His lack of
     acquaintance with many matters in connection with the existing
     organization of the army -- His indisposition to listen to advice
     on such subjects -- Lord K. shy of strangers -- His treatment of
     the Territorial Forces -- Their weak point at the outset of
     hostilities, not having the necessary strength to mobilize at war
     establishment -- Effect of this on the general plans -- The way
     the Territorials dwindled after taking the field -- Lord K.
     inclined at first to pile up divisions without providing them
     with the requisite reservoirs of reserves -- His feat in
     organizing four regular divisions in addition to those in the
     Expeditionary Force -- His immediate recognition of the magnitude
     of the contest -- He makes things hum in the War Office -- His
     differences of opinion with G.H.Q. -- The inability of G.H.Q. to
     realize that a vast expansion of the military forces was the
     matter of primary importance -- Lord K.'s relations with Sir J.
     French -- The despatch of Sir H. Smith-Dorrien to command the
     Second Corps -- Sir J. French not well treated at the time of the
     Antwerp affair -- The relegation of the General Staff at the War
     Office to the background in the early days -- Question whether
     this was entirely due to its having suffered in efficiency by the
     withdrawals which took place on mobilization -- The General Staff
     only eliminated in respect to operations.


My first meeting with Lord Kitchener had taken place under conditions
that augured no agreeable experience. It was in March or April 1901.
At that time I had charge of a heterogeneous collection of guns in a
body of troops operating in the Eastern Transvaal and commanded by
General Walter Kitchener, the Chief's brother, and was also used by
him as a sort of second-in-command to take charge of portions of the
force when detached from time to time. Our commando had trekked out
from Belfast and had camped in a likely spot, and on the morrow he
took out part of the force in one direction and sent me off with part
of the force in another direction, while the remainder stayed in camp
guarding the impedimenta. I tumbled across a few snipers, and we
enjoyed a harmless scrap; but Walter butted into a whole lot of
truculent burghers. These were being reinforced and were full of
fight, so he decided to retire, and also to retire the camp; but the
message directing me to conform unfortunately went astray. The result
was that before long I found myself covering the retirement of the
whole gang, and being rather harried to boot--one of those _reculer
pour mieux sauter_ sort of movements where it is all _reculer_ and no
_sauter_. The casualties were, however, small, and we lost nothing
worth bothering about; but Walter took his big brother very seriously
indeed, was much concerned as to how the Chief might regard an
operation which we could not possibly represent as a success, and,
after much cogitation, packed me off to Pretoria to report in person.

He gave me elaborate directions as to how best to approach the subject
when in the presence. "No, don't put it that way, tell it him like
this"--"He'll damn me and you, but whatever you do, don't make
excuses," and so forth. One had read Steevens' appreciation of the
then Sirdar in his _With Kitchener to Khartum_, and had gathered from
newspapers (the worst possible source of information about the
character and the idiosyncrasies of persons of note) that this
commander-in-chief of ours was a cold, exacting, unsympathetic figure,
much more given to jumping down your throat than to patting you on the
back. The consequence was that when, having fetched up in Pretoria
after some adventures, I was wending my way to Lord K.'s headquarters
I felt very much as one does when repairing to the dentist. It was
worse, indeed, than going to the dentist, because when I got there
Colonel Hubert Hamilton, the Military Secretary (who was killed when
in command of the Third Division soon after it reached the Lys from
the Aisne in October 1914), greeted me with "Very sorry, but the
Chief's awfully busy to-day. Roll up about this time to-morrow, will
you, like a good chap?" It was the same story again on the next
day--the Chief up to the neck in correspondence. But on presenting
myself on the third day, Hamilton promptly ushered me into the great
man's study, where he was sitting at his desk.

"What d'you want?" demanded Lord K. I began explaining about our
little affair near Belfast; but he cut me short with "Oh, I don't want
to hear about all that. Had any trouble getting here?" Yes, the train
in front of mine had been blown up, and----"They'll bag you on the way
back," interrupted the Chief cheerily, "so I'd better get what I can
out of you now; my brother writes that you've been about a good deal
on the east side, and I'm going to take that in hand very shortly.
Come along over here." We went across to where there was a huge great
map of the Eastern Transvaal, with the positions of the posts and
columns, etc., marked on it, and for twenty minutes or so I found
myself enjoying the pleasantest interview with a much senior officer
than I had ever had in my life. He listened to my exposition of how it
seemed best to round up the enemy commandos, where sedentary forces
ought to be dumped down to act as stops, and what lines the mobile
columns ought to operate along. Lord K. occasionally interjected a
question or criticism as to some particular point, but seemed not in
the least displeased when I stuck to my own view. When he dismissed me
he spoke in a particularly friendly way, and my experience of him on
this occasion was nothing short of a revelation.

"Had a satisfactory talk?" asked Hamilton when I came out, and, on my
saying how nice the Chief had been, he remarked, "He's in one of his
good moods to-day, but you mightn't always find him quite so tame.
He's been down to the Old Colony and back these last two days, and
found things moving--that's why he could not see you before. But he
always keeps his movements very close, so you mustn't let it go any
further."

Walter Kitchener, not unnaturally, entertained unbounded admiration
for, and belief in, his brother, and he often told me tales from
Egyptian days of things that the Sirdar then did and of the resource
he would display in unexpected emergencies. One of these yarns about
the great War Minister at a stage of his career when he was still
mounting the ladder of success deserves to be repeated here.[3] It
happened one day, during the operations for the recovery of the Sudan
from the Mahdi-ists, that "K." was riding forward with his staff,
there being no troops nor transport actually on the move, he mounted
on his camel, the rest on horses and ponies. By the wayside they came
upon a heap of rolls of telegraph-wire lying near the track, which
some unit had apparently abandoned as lumber or else had been unable
to carry. "We can't leave that stuff behind," said the Sirdar to the
staff; "bring it along." Two or three of them dismounted to see what
could be done, but there was no gear available for lashing and the
rolls were heavy. A little party of the small donkeys of the country
was, however, being driven along by a native lad and came on the scene
just at this juncture. "Hurry up. Put the wire on those donkeys. I
don't want to sit here all day," commanded the Sirdar impatiently. The
donkeys had no saddles nor equipment of any kind except rope halters
of sorts, and the officers sampled various devices, without success,
for placing the goods on the donkeys' backs and keeping them there.
They experimented with balancing a roll on the back of one, but it
promptly fell off again. They tied two rolls together and slung them
across the back of another, pannier fashion; but the little beast gave
a kick and a wriggle and deposited the load on the ground. Various
dodges were tried, perspiration poured off the faces of the officers,
they were covered with dust, their language grew stronger and
stronger, and at last, feeling themselves entirely nonplussed, one of
them, looking up at their chief as he sat on his camel with a sardonic
smile on his face, observed deprecatingly, "I'm afraid we really can't
manage it, sir."

                   [Footnote 3: While this volume has been in the
                   press Sir G. Arthur's _Life of Lord Kitchener_ has
                   appeared, giving a different version of this story
                   and probably the correct one. Walter Kitchener was
                   speaking, I think, from hearsay.]

"Can't manage it, can't you!" ejaculated the Sirdar; "here, let me
come." He made his camel kneel, and dismounted, stalked over to one of
the donkeys, gripped the animal by the nose, backed it till its hind
feet were inside one of the rolls, turned the roll up over the
donkey's back from behind, gave the beast a smack on the rump, and
after one or two wriggles and kicks, the creature was trotting along,
adorned with a loosely fitting girdle of telegraph-wire round its
waist which it could not get rid of. The same plan was promptly
adopted with the other donkeys. And in a few minutes the party were
riding along again, with the donkeys, carrying the whole of the
abandoned wire, in close attendance.

That Lord Kitchener would cut up rough at times when things went
wrong, as Hubert Hamilton had hinted at Pretoria, was brought home to
me convincingly on the occasion of my first interview with him at the
War Office after that visit to the Admiralty which is mentioned in
Chapter I. General Hanbury Williams had been earmarked in advance for
British Military Commissioner at Russian Headquarters, and he dashed
off in a great hurry to take up the appointment on mobilization. I
believe that he looked in to see me before starting, but I was not in
my room at the moment; I am not sure, indeed, that I knew that he was
going until after he had started. A few days later the Chief, when
wanting to wire to his representative with the Tsar's armies,
discovered that he had gone off without a cipher. It was possible, of
course, to communicate through the Foreign Office and our embassy at
St. Petersburg (as the capital was still called); but Lord K.
naturally desired means of direct communication. He was extremely
angry about it, and he gave me a most disagreeable five minutes.

Although all this cipher business was under charge of one of my
branches, the contretemps was due to no neglect on my own part. Nor
was it the fault of the subordinate who actually handled the ciphers,
because he did not even know that Hanbury Williams had gone until the
row occurred. The mishap had resulted from our Military Commissioner
making his exit at the very moment when new hands were taking up their
duties and had not yet got the hang of these. But one guessed that
explanations would not be received sympathetically by the Secretary of
State, and that it would be wisest to take the rebuke "lying down"; he
expected things to be done right, and that was all about it. Still, it
was not an altogether encouraging start. Indeed I scarcely ever saw
Lord K. during the first two or three months, and when I did, it was
generally because some little matter had gone wrong in connection with
the Secret Service or the Press, or owing to one of the Amateur
Spy-Catchers starting some preposterous hare, or because he needed
information as to some point of little importance. The fact is
that--to put the matter quite bluntly--when he took up his burden the
Chief did not know what the duties of his subordinates were supposed
to be, and he took little trouble to find out. One day he sent for me
and directed me to carry out a certain measure in connection with a
subject that was not my business at all, and I was so ill-advised as
to say, "It's a matter for the Adjutant-General's Department, sir, but
I'll let them know about it." "I told you to do it yourself," snapped
the Chief in a very peremptory tone. Under the circumstances, one
could only go to the man concerned in the A.G. Department, explain
matters, and beg him for goodness sake to wrestle with the problem and
carry out what was wanted.

What, however, was still more unfortunate than Lord K.'s lack of
acquaintance with the distribution of work within the Office was that
he was by no means familiar with many very essential details of our
existing military organization. That is not an unusual state of
affairs when a new Secretary of State is let loose in the War Office.
But a new Secretary of State as a rule has the time, and is willing,
to study questions of organization and policy closely before embarking
on fresh projects. Lord Kitchener, however, arrived with certain
preconceived ideas and cramped by defective knowledge of the army
system. He had scarcely served at home since he had left Chatham as a
young subaltern of the Royal Engineers. In Egypt, in India, even to a
great extent in South Africa, the troops coming from the United
Kingdom with which he had been brought into contact had been regulars.
He had never had anything to say to the provision of British military
personnel at its source. For the three years previous to the outbreak
of the Great War he had been holding a civil appointment afar off, and
had necessarily been out of touch with contemporary military thought.
There must have been many matters in connection with the organization
of His Majesty's land forces, thoroughly known to pretty well every
staff-officer in the War Office, of which the incoming Secretary of
State was entirely unaware. The British division of all arms of 1914
represented a far larger force than the British divisions of all arms
had represented with which he had had to do in the days of Paardeberg
and Diamond Hill. The expressions "Special Reserve" and "Territorial
Forces" did not, I believe, when he arrived, convey any very clear
meaning to him. He was not, in fact, in all respects fully equipped
for his task.

With many, indeed with most, men similarly placed this might not have
greatly mattered. There were plenty of officers of wide experience in
Whitehall who could have posted him up fully in regard to points not
within his knowledge. But Lord Kitchener had for many years previously
always been absolute master in his own house, with neither the need
nor the desire to lean upon others. Like many men of strong will and
commanding ability, he was a centralizer by instinct and in practice.
He took over the position of War Minister with very clearly defined
conceptions of what must be done to expand the exiguous fighting
forces of his country in face of the tremendous emergency with which
it stood suddenly confronted. He was little disposed to modify the
plans which he had formed for compassing that end, when subordinates
pointed out that these clashed with arrangements that were already in
full working order, or that they ignored the existence of formations
which only stood in need of nursing and of consolidation to render
them really valuable assets within a short space of time for the
purpose of prosecuting war. The masterful personality and
self-confidence to which the phenomenal success that attended his
creation of the wonderful New Armies was so largely due, was in some
respects a handicap to him in the early days of his stewardship.

My impression of him--an impression unduly influenced perhaps by
personal experiences--was that he was shy of strangers or comparative
strangers. He did not give his confidence readily to subordinates with
whom he found himself associated for the first time. He would not
brook remonstrance, still less contradiction, from a man whom he did
not know. It was largely due to this, as it seemed to me, that he was
rather out of hand, so to speak, during the critical opening months.
It was during those opening months that he performed the greatest
services to the people of this land, that he introduced the measures
which won us the war. But it was also during those opening months,
when he was disinclined to listen to advice, that he made his worst
mistakes.

I do not believe that there was one single military authority of any
standing within the War Office, except himself, who would not have
preferred that the cream of the personnel, men who had served in the
regulars, who flocked into the ranks in response to his trumpet call
to the nation, should have been devoted in the first instance to
filling the yawning gaps that existed in the Territorial Forces, and
to providing those forces with trained reservists to fill war wastage.
Such a disposition of this very valuable material seemed preferable to
absorbing it at the outset in brand-new formations, which in any case
would be unable to take the field for many months to come. Parliament
would have readily consented to any alteration in the statutes
governing the Territorial Forces which might have been necessary. Lord
K.'s actions in this question to some extent antagonized the military
side of the War Office just at first: we were thinking of the early
future: he, as was his wont, was looking far ahead. My work was nowise
concerned with the provision of troops in any form, and in later days,
when I was often with the Chief, I never remember discussing the
Territorials with him. But it is conceivable that he became somewhat
prejudiced against this category of the land forces at the start on
finding that they were unable to perform the very duty for which they
were supposed to exist--that of home defence. Something may,
therefore, perhaps be said here on this point.

Mobilization means producing the force concerned, at its full war
establishment and composed of officers and men who at least have some
pretence to military training. It is, moreover, supposed to be
completed at very short notice. Owing to their being territorial and
to officers and other ranks living in their territorial districts, the
Territorial Forces ought to have been mobilized more rapidly by some
hours than the Expeditionary Force, and I believe that, in so far as
collecting what personnel there was available is concerned, the
Territorial Forces beat the Expeditionary Force. But the ranks of the
Territorials had never filled in pre-war days, and there were
practically no organized reserves. The war establishment was roughly
315,000 of all ranks; but at the beginning of August the strength was
only about 270,000, and this, be it remembered, included a proportion
of totally untrained individuals, as well as sick, absentees, and so
forth. To have mobilized these troops properly, the number of officers
and men on the books at the start and before the order came ought to
have amounted to at least 350,000.

The consequence of this shortage was that, at the very moment when the
Government and the country were on the first occasion for a century
confronted by a really grave and complex military situation, at the
very moment when there was a scare as to German projects of an
immediate invasion, that category of our land forces which was
especially earmarked for the defence of the British Isles was not in a
position to perform its functions. The Sixth Division, properly
forming part of the Expeditionary Force, had to be fetched over from
Ireland to East Anglia to bolster up the Territorials, and Sir J.
French was deprived of its use for six weeks at a very critical time.
The ranks of the Territorial Forces filled up very rapidly _after_
mobilization, but from the home defence point of view that was too
late. We required our home defence army to be ready at once, so that
the overseas army could be despatched complete to the Continent
without _arrière pensée_. Its failure at the critical moment may have
somewhat influenced Lord Kitchener in the estimates that he formed of
it thenceforward. Instead of framing his plans with a view to
reinforcing the Expeditionary Force as soon as possible with the
existing fourteen Territorial divisions which were in some measure
going concerns, by affording these special support, he preferred
simply to expand the Territorial Forces as a whole. Four divisions
were sent out of the country on garrison duty before the end of 1914,
but although a number of individual battalions had preceded it, the
first division to be sent to the front (the North Midland) did not
sail from the United Kingdom till the end of February, more than six
months after the outbreak of hostilities, while the two last to take
the field did not leave till early in 1916. The policy may in the long
run have proved the right one; but at the time it did seem a pity not
to have accelerated the preparation of these existing troops for the
ordeal of the field. None of us in Whitehall, however, wished the New
Armies to be set up under the auspices of the Territorial
Associations; that was a different question altogether.

Moreover, whatever was the cause of it, the Territorial divisions
after they took the field seemed to be treated as veritable
Cinderellas for a long time. They generally set out short of
establishment, and they were apt to dwindle away painfully for want of
reserves after they had spent a few weeks on the war-path. The Returns
show this to have been the case. More than one of the divisional
Generals concerned spoke to me, or wrote to me, on the subject in the
later months of 1915. This discouraging shrinkage was not manifesting
itself to at all the same extent at that stage in such New Army
divisions as were at the front.

A good many of us at the War Office also did not, I think, see quite
eye to eye with Lord K. in connection with his piling up of New Army
divisions without providing them with reserves. The tremendous drain
which modern war creates in respect to personnel came as a surprise to
all the belligerents; but the surprise came fairly early in the
proceedings, and the Adjutant-General's department had fully grasped
what this meant, and had realized the scale of the provision necessary
to meet it, by the end of 1914. If I remember aright, one whole "New
Army" (the Fourth, I think it was) had to be broken up in the summer
of 1915, and transformed into a reservoir of reserves, because the
First, Second, and Third New Armies practically had none. It had been
manifest long before these armies were gradually drawn into the fight
that they would suffer heavy wastage, and that they would speedily
become mere skeletons unless they had ample backing from home. Had the
branches of the War Office which were supposed to deal with these
questions been allowed their own way in regard to them, I imagine
that greater foresight would have been displayed and that some
confusion might have been avoided.

The preceding paragraphs read perhaps rather like a deliberate attempt
to belittle the achievements of the greatest of our War Ministers. But
they only touch upon one side, the dark side so to speak, of Lord
Kitchener's work as an organizer and administrator during the Great
War. Little has been said hitherto as to the other and much more
important side, the bright side, of that work.

The marvels that he accomplished in respect to multiplying the land
forces of the nation by creating improvised armies as it were by
magic, have put in the shade a feat for which Lord Kitchener has never
been given sufficient credit. Prior to August 1914, no organization
existed for placing any portions of our regular army in the field in a
Continental theatre of war, other than the Expeditionary Force and one
additional division. The additional division was to be constituted if
possible on the outbreak of war out of infantry to be withdrawn from
certain foreign garrisons, and spare artillery, engineer and
departmental units that existed in the United Kingdom. That additional
division, the Seventh, was despatched to the Western Front within two
months of mobilization. But Lord Kitchener also organized four further
regular divisions, the Eighth, Twenty-seventh, Twenty-eighth and
Twenty-ninth, of which the first three were in the field within five
months of mobilization, joining Sir J. French respectively in
November, December and January, and the remaining one was nearly ready
to take the field by the end of the six months. The Secretary of State
prepared for this immediately on taking up office, by recalling
practically the whole of the regulars on foreign service, with the
exception of the British troops included in four mixed Indian
divisions. Would any War Minister other than Lord Kitchener have had
the courage to denude India of British regular troops, artillery as
well as infantry, to the extent that he did? Supposing any other War
Minister to have proposed such a thing, would the Government have
backed him up? It was the handiwork of a very big man.

Still, this was after all a quite minor detail in the constructive
labours undertaken by one of the most illustrious public servants of
our time. His paramount claim to the gratitude of his countrymen rests
upon his nimble perception of the nature of the task which he had been
suddenly called upon to perform, and upon the speed with which he set
every channel in motion to accomplish his purpose. He realized, as it
seemed by instinct, that this contest was going to be a very big
business indeed, an incomparably bigger business than these topmost
military authorities who had been in the confidence of the Government
before the blow fell had any idea of. It is no exaggeration to say
that in this matter he was a giant amongst the pigmies. He grasped the
truth at once that this world war was to be a protracted struggle, a
struggle in which the Entente would not gain the upper hand unless a
tremendous effort was to be put forward by the British Empire. He saw
almost at a glance that our military system such as it was, and as
previously devised with a view to war conditions, provided what
represented numerically no more than an insignificant fraction of the
host which would ultimately be needed to give us victory. He
furthermore--and it is well to insist upon this thus early, in view of
fabrications which have been put about on the subject of
munitions--clearly discerned the need for a huge expansion in the
country's powers of output in respect to war material; so that under
his impulse existing factories and establishments were developed on
generous lines, and arrangements were instantly set on foot for
creating entirely new factories and establishments. The result was
that, after a lean and discouraging period for the troops in the
field, the needs of an army which was ten times as strong as the army
which soldiers of light and leading had been contemplating before war
broke out, were being adequately met within fifteen months of the
British ultimatum to Germany.

Within the War Office itself he certainly made things hum. In pre-war,
plain-clothes days, those messengers of distinguished presence--dignity
personified in their faultlessly-fitting official frock-coats and red
waistcoats--had lent a tone of respectability to the precincts,
compensating for the unfortunate impression conveyed by
Adjutant-Generals and such like who perambulated the corridors in
grimy, abandoned-looking "office jackets." (No scarecrow on duty
afield in the remotest of rural districts would have been seen in the
garment which my predecessor, now F.M., Bart., and G.C.B., left
hanging up as a legacy in the apartment which he vacated in my
favour.) But--although old hands will hardly credit it and may think I
am romancing--I have seen those messengers tearing along the passages
with coat-tails flying as though mad monkeys were at their heels, when
Lord K. wanted somebody in his sanctum and had invited one of them to
take the requisite steps. If the Chief happened to desire the presence
of oneself, one did not run. Appearances had to be preserved. But one
walked rather fast.

An earlier paragraph has hinted that, owing to military authorities in
Whitehall not seeing quite eye to eye with the new Secretary of State
when he took up his appointment, he was to some small extent working
in an atmosphere of latent hostility to his measures. This state of
affairs was, however, of very short duration, and certainly did not
hamper his operations in the slightest degree; he would indeed have
made uncommonly short work of anybody whom he found to be actively
opposing him, or even to be hanging back. But the situation in the
case of G.H.Q. of the Expeditionary Force was different. It is a
matter of common knowledge--anybody who was unaware of it before the
appearance of Lord French's "_1914_" will have learnt it from that
volume--that the relations between Lord Kitchener and some of those up
at the top in connection with our troops on the Western Front were,
practically from the outset, not quite satisfactory in character.

The attitude taken up by G.H.Q. over a comparatively small matter
during the first few days is an example of this. The Secretary of
State had laid his hands upon one officer and one or two
non-commissioned officers of each battalion of the Expeditionary
Force, and had diverted these to act as drill-instructors, and so
forth, for the new formations which he proposed to create. That his
action in this should have been objected to within the bereft units
was natural enough; their officers could hardly be expected to take
the long view on the question at such a juncture. But that the higher
authorities of our little army proceeding to the front should have
taken the measure so amiss was unfortunate. And it was, moreover,
instructive, indicating as it did in somewhat striking fashion the
lack of sense of proportion prevalent amongst some of those included
in G.H.Q. This chapter deals only with early days; but it may perhaps
be mentioned here that there was a disposition to deride and decry the
New Army at St. Omer almost up to the date, May 1915, when the first
three of its divisions, the Ninth, Twelfth and Fourteenth, made their
appearance in the war zone.

Watching the progress of events from behind the scenes, one could not
but think that in respect to the occasional _tracasseries_ between the
War Minister and the Commander-in-Chief of the British troops in
France and Flanders, there were faults on both sides. The wording of
some of the telegraphic messages passing between Lord K. and Sir J.
French did not strike one as altogether felicitous, and, if messages
from G.H.Q. were provocative, the replies were not always calculated
to pour oil on troubled waters. The truth is, that when a pair of
people both of whom require "handling" become associated under
conditions of anxiety and stress that are bound to be trying to the
temper and jarring on the nerves, it's a horse to a hen they won't
make much of a fist of handling each other. The Secretary of State's
action in sending Sir H. Smith-Dorrien to command the Second Corps at
the very outset of the campaign after General Grierson's tragic death,
struck me at the time as a mistake. Sir J. French had asked for
General Plumer who was available, and his wishes might well have been
acceded to. Owing to circumstances of a quite special character the
selection was not in any case an altogether happy one, as the
relations between the new commander of the Second Corps and the chief
of the B.E.F. had not always been too cordial in the past. Having been
away from home so much, Lord K. may not have been aware of this; but I
imagine that if he had consulted the Military Members of the Army
Council they would have mentioned it, as it was almost a matter of
common knowledge in the Service.

On that unpleasant controversy with regard to the rights and the
wrongs of what occurred when the War Minister paid his sudden visit to
Paris during the retreat from Mons, of which so much has been heard, I
can throw no light whatever. At a later date "Fitz" (Colonel O.
Fitzgerald, Lord K.'s constant companion) and I were in pretty close
touch, and he used to keep me informed of what his chief had in his
mind; but I hardly knew him to speak to during the early weeks. In
respect to the Antwerp business, it certainly did seem to me that our
principal commander on the Western Front (for the moment there were
two) was not being very well treated. From a perusal of some of the
communications that were flying about at a juncture when Sir J. French
was confronted by a complex problem, and was virtually embarking on an
entirely new set of operations, one gathered that he was hardly being
kept so well informed of what was in progress and of what was
contemplated as he had a right to expect, and as was indeed demanded
by the situation. Still, this was no doubt due to what one might call
bad Staff work, and not to any wish to keep Sir John in the dark as to
Sir H. Rawlinson's orders, nor as to the position of this new British
force that was being planted down in the war zone. It may well have
been the direct result of Lord K.'s system of keeping all telegraphic
work in connection with operations in his own hands, instead of this
being carried out by the General Staff as under the existing
regulations it was supposed to be.

Much has been written and has been said in public about the pushing of
the General Staff into the background at the War Office during the
early months of the war. An idea exists that this subversion was
mainly, if not indeed entirely, consequential on the weakening of its
personnel as a body owing to a number of its most prominent and
experienced members having gone off to the wars. While readily
admitting that its efficiency suffered as a result of these
withdrawals, I am by no means sure that it would have managed to keep
in the foreground even if the whole of its more shining lights had on
mobilization remained where they were in Whitehall. Lord Kitchener had
never been closely associated with Generals Robertson and Henry
Wilson, its two principal members to leave for the front, and it by no
means follows that if they had remained they would, during the first
few critical weeks, have been much more successful than were Sir C.
Douglas and Sir J. Wolfe-Murray in keeping a hand on the helm. The
Secretary of State would no doubt have learnt to value their counsel
before long, but he would no more have tolerated the slightest attempt
at dictation in respect to the general conduct of the war until he
knew his men, than he would have put up with dictation as to how the
personnel which he was attracting into the ranks at the rate of tens
of thousands per week were to be disposed of. The story of how the
General Staff gradually recovered much of its lost ground will,
however, be touched upon in the next chapter, and on that point no
more need be said at present.

It may, however, be remarked here that the comparative elimination of
the General Staff was virtually confined to its elimination in
respect to what admittedly is its most important function in times of
national emergency--advising the Government of the country on the
subject of the general conduct of the war--and in respect to the
administrative task of actually issuing instructions as to operations
to those in supreme command in the theatres of conflict. The duties of
the General Staff cover many other matters besides these. They include
collection of information, secret service, questions of international
law, military education, training of troops, etc. It fulfilled its
mission in connection with such subjects just as had always been
intended, nor, in so far as they were concerned, was it thrust on one
side in any sense. Lord Kitchener's system of centralization only
directly affected a small proportion of the very numerous
directorates, branches, and sections into which the War Office was
divided up.



CHAPTER IV

LORD KITCHENER'S LATER RECORD

     The munitions question and the Dardanelles, to be dealt with
     later -- The Alexandretta project of the winter of 1914-15 --
     Such an operation presented little difficulty then -- H.M.S.
     _Doris'_ doings -- The scheme abandoned -- I am sent to Paris
     about the Italian conventions just after the Dardanelles landings
     -- Concern at the situation after the troops had got ashore at
     Helles and Anzac -- A talk with Lord K. and Sir E. Grey -- Its
     consequences -- Lord K. seemed to have lost some of his
     confidence in his own judgement with regard to operations
     questions -- The question of the withdrawal of the _Queen
     Elizabeth_ from the Aegean -- The discussion about it at the
     Admiralty -- Lord K.'s inability to take some of his colleagues
     at their own valuation -- Does not know some of their names --
     Another officer of distinction gets them mixed up in his mind --
     Lord K.'s disappointment at the early failures of the New Army
     divisions -- His impatience when he wanted anything in a hurry --
     My own experiences -- Typists' idiosyncrasies aggravate the
     trouble -- Lord K. in an unreasonable mood -- His knowledge of
     French -- His skilful handling of a Portuguese mission -- His
     readiness to see foreign officers when asked to do so -- How he
     handled them -- The Serbian Military Attaché asks for approval of
     an attack by his country upon Bulgaria at the time of Bulgarian
     mobilization -- A dramatic interview with Lord K. -- Confidence
     placed in him with regard to munitions by the Russians -- His
     speeches in the House of Lords -- The heat of his room -- His
     preoccupation about the safety of Egypt -- He disapproves of the
     General Staff plan with regard to its defence -- His attitude
     with regard to national service -- His difficulties in this
     matter -- His anxiety to have a reserve in hand for delivering
     the decisive blow in the war -- My last meeting with him -- His
     pleasure in going to Russia -- His failure to accomplish his
     mission, a great disaster to the Entente cause -- A final word
     about him -- He did more than any man on the side of the Allies
     to win the war -- Fitz.


Lord Kitchener's actions and attitude in connection with two
particular matters evoked a good deal of criticism in various quarters
at the time, and much has been said and written about them. One of
those matters was the munitions question, the other was the
Dardanelles undertaking; both of those subjects are, however,
discussed in special later chapters, and no reference will therefore
be made to them in this one, except incidentally. I have, moreover, no
recollection of ever having been brought into contact with the
Secretary of State in connection with those projects for combined
naval and military operations on the Flanders coast which received
considerable attention in the winter of 1914-15, although, as will be
mentioned in Chapter VI., aware of what was under review.

That Flanders coast scheme constituted, it may be observed, a question
of the general strategical conduct of the war; it was, in fact, a
question of "operations." The first time that I went into any problem
coming properly under that heading with the Secretary of State was
when a plan of landing troops at or near Alexandretta was on the tapis
in December 1914. There was a good deal to be said for such an
enterprise at that particular juncture. Military opinion invariably
favours active in preference to passive defence, so long as active
defence can be regarded as reasonably feasible and the troops needed
for the purpose are available. The Turks were mustering for an attack
upon Egypt across the Isthmus of Sinai at that time. It was an axiom
in our military policy that the Nile delta must be rendered secure
against such efforts. There was something decidedly attractive about
employing the troops--or a portion of them--who must in any case be
charged with the protection of Egypt, actively against the enemy's
line of communications instead of their hanging about, a stationary
force, on the Suez Canal awaiting the onset of the Osmanli. Right
through the war, the region about the Gulf of Iskanderun was one of
prime strategical importance, seeing that Entente forces planted down
in those parts automatically threatened, if they did not actually
sever, the Ottoman communications between Anatolia and the theatres of
war in Palestine and in Mesopotamia. But at dates subsequent to the
winter of 1914-15 the enemy had fully realized that this was the case,
was in a position to provide against the eventuality, and had taken
steps accordingly.

At the time I speak of, the Turks were not, however, in strong force
at or near Alexandretta. Nor were they in a position to assemble
formidable bodies of troops in that neighbourhood at short notice. For
railway communications running westward towards Smyrna and the Golden
Horn remained interrupted by the great Taurus range of mountains, the
tunnels through which were making slow progress, and the tunnels
through the Amanus hills which sever Aleppo from the Cilician Plain
were likewise incomplete. One of our light cruisers (H.M.S. _Doris_,
if my memory is not at fault) was stationed in the Gulf of Iskanderun,
and was having a high old time. She dodged up and down the coast,
appeared unexpectedly at unwelcome moments, and carried terror into
the hearts of the local representatives of the Sublime Porte. She
landed boats' crews from time to time just to show that she was
top-dog, without their even being fired upon. Somebody ashore having
done something that she disapproved of, she ordered the Ottoman
officials to blow up certain of the bridges on their own railway, and
when these harassed individuals, anxious to oblige, proffered the
excuse that they lacked the wherewithal to carry her instructions out,
she lent them explosives and saw to it that they were properly used.
Her activities made it plain to us that there was absolutely no fight
in the enemy at the moment in this quarter.

The whole subject of an expedition to Alexandretta was carefully gone
into, in consultation with Sir J. Maxwell who was commanding the
forces in Egypt, and we came to the conclusion that a comparatively
small force could quite easily effect a landing and gain sufficient
ground to make itself comfortable on enemy soil, even if the Turks
managed gradually to assemble reinforcements. One realized that
securing a considerable sector of ground [p.63] at once was essential in an
amphibious operation of this kind, the very thing that was never
accomplished on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Lord K. was much interested
in the project for a time; he believed that it would help the
Russians, who were in some straits in Armenia, and he was satisfied
that if it was successfully carried into effect, hostile designs
against the Suez Canal line would automatically be brought to nought.
A job of this sort would have served as a capital exercise for some of
the Australasian troops then in Egypt, who from the training point of
view were still a raw soldiery; such a task would have represented a
very different class of trial from that which they were actually to
undergo three months later when getting ashore at Anzac Cove. But Mr.
Churchill's naval project against the Dardanelles began to take shape
early in January, and it put an end to any thoughts about
Alexandretta. The matter is, indeed, only mentioned here because its
consideration marked about the first occasion on which Lord Kitchener
made any use of the General Staff within the War Office in connection
with any operations question outside the United Kingdom.

It was not until another four months had elapsed, however, that I
personally had much say in regard to those very questions which a
Director of Military Operations would, from his title, seem
necessarily to be closely concerned with. The change that then took
place I attribute very largely to an incident which on that account
deserves recording. It happened that, on the very day after welcome
tidings came to hand by cable from Sir I. Hamilton to the effect that
he had successfully landed 29,000 troops on the Gallipoli Peninsula on
the 25th of April, I was sent off to Paris to represent the British
Army at a secret conference with French and Russian commissioners and
with representatives of the Italians (who were coming into the war),
at which naval and military conventions with our fresh ally were to be
drawn up. Further reference to this conference will be made in a later
chapter. The consequence was that for several days I heard no more
about Sir Ian's operations beyond what appeared in the newspapers, and
it was only when Mr. Churchill turned up somewhat unexpectedly and
told me what had occurred, that it was borne in on me that our
Dardanelles expeditionary force was completely held up in cramped
positions and without elbow-room on an uncomfortable sort of shore. An
examination of the telegrams and a discussion with my assistants after
getting back from Paris convinced me that the situation was in the
highest degree unsatisfactory, and I gathered, furthermore, that H.M.
Government did not seem to be aware how unsatisfactory the situation
was.

A day or two later, Lord K. summoned me to his room to ask some
question, when I found Sir E. Grey closeted with him. Here was an
opportunity that was not to be missed. While the Chief was making a
note at his desk of the point that he wanted to know, I spoke to Sir
Edward, and told him in effect that we had not a dog's chance of
getting through the Dardanelles unless he secured the aid of the
Bulgars, or of the Greeks, or of both of them--purposely putting the
matter more strongly than I actually felt about it, in the hopes of
making an impression by a jeremiad. Lord K. stopped writing and looked
up. We had a short conversation, and after a few minutes I left the
room. The Foreign Minister may not have been impressed, but Lord K.
was; for he sent for me again later in the day, and we had a long
discussion about Sir I. Hamilton's prospects. The incident, moreover,
had a result which I had not anticipated. From that time forward the
Chief often talked to me about the position in the Dardanelles and in
the Near East generally. He used to take me with him to the
Dardanelles Committee which was formed soon afterwards; and when he
was away I ordinarily represented him at the deliberations of that
body, deliberations which, as a matter of fact, covered a good deal of
ground besides the Gallipoli Peninsula.

It struck me at the time that Lord Kitchener's confidence in himself
and his own judgement, in connection with what may be called
operations subjects, had been somewhat shaken, and that from this
stage onwards he rather welcomed the opinion of others when such
points arose. The Antwerp adventure had proved a fiasco. The endeavour
to force the Dardanelles by naval power, unaided by troops, had
conspicuously failed. Coming on the top of those discouraging
experiences, our army thrown ashore on the Gallipoli Peninsula had,
after suffering very heavy losses, straightway been brought to a
standstill. As regards the Fleet's efforts against the Straits, I
gathered at the time (from Fitzgerald, I think) that in taking an
optimistic view of the project when it was under discussion by the War
Council, Lord K. had been a good deal influenced by recollections of
the bombardment of Alexandria, at which he had been present. The Chief
always claimed to have been led astray by Mr. Churchill concerning the
potentialities of the _Queen Elizabeth_, and had, I should say, come
to the conclusion that the judgement of the then First Lord, with whom
he had been so closely associated for nine months, was not quite
infallible. He cannot but have been aware that his Cabinet colleagues
no longer reposed the implicit trust in his own judgement that they
had accorded him at the outset. All through the summer of 1915 he grew
more and more disposed to listen to the views of the General Staff as
regards questions affecting the general conduct of the war, and, after
Sir A. Murray became C.I.G.S. in October, that institution was almost
occupying its proper position in the consultative sense. It did not
recover its proper position in the executive sense, however, until
Lord K. arranged that Sir W. Robertson should take up charge at the
end of the year.

The question of the _Queen Elizabeth_ cropped up in somewhat acute
form two or three weeks after my conversation with Sir E. Grey which
has been mentioned above. Lord Fisher had, as I knew from himself,
been getting decidedly jumpy about the enemy U-boats, which were
known to be approaching the Aegean, and about the middle of May he
raised the question of fetching away the "_Lizzie_," as Sir I.
Hamilton's troops used to call her, lest evil should befall this, the
most powerful ship in commission at the time. Lord Fisher has referred
to this matter in his book _Memories_. He speaks of great tension
between Lord K. and himself over the business, and he mentions an
interview at the Admiralty at which, according to him, Lord K. got up
from the table and left when he (Lord Fisher) announced that he would
resign unless the battleship was ordered out of that forthwith. Now
there may have been more than one interview at the Admiralty, but I
was present at the conference when the matter was settled, and my
recollection of what occurred does not agree with Lord Fisher's
account.

Lord Kitchener sent for me early one morning, and on my presenting
myself, told me that Lord Fisher was insisting upon recalling the
_Queen Elizabeth_ owing to enemy submarines, that Mr. Churchill was in
two minds but leant towards keeping her where she was, that he (Lord
K.) objected to her removal, and that I was to accompany him to a
meeting at the Admiralty a little later in connection with the affair.
"They've rammed that ship down my throat," said he in effect.
"Churchill told me in the first place that she would knock all the
Dardanelles batteries into smithereens, firing from goodness knows
where. He afterwards told me that she would make everything all right
for the troops as they landed, and after they landed. And now, without
'with your leave or by your leave,' old Fisher says he won't let her
stop out there." He seemed to be quite as much concerned about the way
he had been treated in the matter, as influenced by any great alarm at
the prospect of the ship leaving the vicinity of the Dardanelles.
Finally, he asked me what I thought myself.

Now, there could be no question as to the _Queen Elizabeth_ being a
most powerful ship of war; but the fact was that she had been a
regular nuisance. Mr. Churchill had somehow persuaded himself, and
what was worse, he had managed to persuade Lord Kitchener as well as
Mr. Asquith and others, that she would just about settle the
Dardanelles business off her own bat. I had, as it happened (and as
will be mentioned in the next chapter), expressed doubts to him six
months earlier when the idea of operations in this quarter was first
mooted, as to the efficacy of gun-fire from warships in assisting
troops on shore or when trying to get ashore. Nothing which had
happened since had furnished any reason for altering that view. No
battleship depending upon flat trajectory guns could ever play a rôle
of paramount importance during fighting ashore, except in quite
abnormal circumstances. The whole thing was a delusion. Ships of war,
and particularly such a vessel as the _Queen Elizabeth_, did
undoubtedly provide moral support to an army operating on land close
to the coast, and their aid was by no means to be despised; but their
potentialities under such conditions were apt to be greatly
overestimated, and had, in fact, been greatly overestimated by the War
Council. My reply to the Chief, therefore, was to the effect that it
was of secondary importance from the soldier's point of view whether
this particular battleship stopped or cleared out, and that, seeing
the risks which she obviously was running, it seemed to me a mistake
to contest the point. We discussed the matter briefly, and Lord K.
gave me to understand that, although he must put up some sort of fight
as he had already raised objections, he would make no real stand about
it at the coming pow-wow.

When we went across the road we found Mr. Churchill and Lord Fisher
waiting in the First Lord's room. After some remarks by Mr. Churchill
giving the _pros_ and _cons_, Lord Fisher burst out that, unless
orders were dispatched to the battleship without delay to "come out of
that," he would resign. The First Lord thereupon, somewhat reluctantly
as it seemed to me, intimated that in view of the position taken up
by his principal expert adviser, he had no option but to recall the
vessel. Lord Kitchener demurred, but he demurred very mildly. There
was no jumping up and going off in a huff. Some perfectly amicable
discussion as to one or two other points of mutual interest ensued,
and when we took our departure the Chief was in the very best of
humours and asked me if he had made as much fuss as was expedient
under the circumstances.

Lord K. seemed quite incapable of taking his Cabinet colleagues so
seriously as people of that sort take themselves. Indeed, but for the
more prominent ones, he never could remember what their jobs were, nor
even recollect their names. It put one in a cold perspiration to hear
him remark, when recounting what had occurred at a Cabinet séance or
at the meeting of some committee bristling with Privy Councillors, "A
fellow--I don't know his name but he's got curly hair--said..." Other
soldiers besides Lord K. have, however, been known on occasion to get
these super-men mixed up in their minds. There were three Ministers,
for instance, whom for convenience we will call Messrs. Abraham, Isaac
and Jacob. Mr. Jacob was on one occasion taking part in a conference
at the War Office about something or other, a whole lot of the
brightest and best sitting round a table trying to look intelligent;
and in the course of the proceedings he felt constrained to give his
opinion on a matter that had cropped up. A soldier of high degree, who
was holding a most respectable position in the War Office and was
sitting on the opposite side of the table, thereupon lifted up his
voice. "I quite see Mr. Abraham's point," he began argumentatively,
"but I----." He was thrown into pitiable confusion, was routed, lost
his guns, his baggage, everything, forgot what he was about to say, on
being brought up short by a snarl from across the table, "My name is
Jacob, not Abraham."

One day in the summer of 1915 when Lord K. had summoned me to ask some
question, he appeared to be in particularly low spirits, and
presently he showed me a communication (a telegram, I think it was)
from Sir J. French, intimating that one of the New Army divisions
which had recently proceeded across the water had not borne itself
altogether satisfactorily when assailed in the trenches. The troops
had apparently been in a measure caught napping, although they had
fought it out gallantly after being taken at a disadvantage owing to
keeping careless guard. That these divisions, in which he naturally
enough took such exceptional personal interest, needed a great deal of
breaking-in to conditions in presence of the enemy before they could
be employed with complete confidence, had been a bitter disappointment
to him. On this subject he was perhaps misled to some extent by the
opinions of officers who were particularly well qualified to judge.
The New Army troops had shown magnificent grit and zeal while
preparing themselves in this country for the ordeal of the field,
under most discouraging conditions, and they had come on very fast in
consequence. Their very experienced divisional commanders, many of
whom had come conspicuously to the front in the early months of the
war and had learnt in the best of schools what fighting meant under
existing conditions, were therefore rather disposed to form unduly
favourable estimates of what their divisions would be capable of as
soon as they entered upon their great task in the war zone. I remember
receiving a letter from that very gallant and popular gunner, General
F. Wing (who was afterwards killed at Loos), written very shortly
before his division proceeded to France, in which he expressed himself
enthusiastically with regard to the potentialities of his troops. His
earnest hope was to find himself pitting them against the Boche as
soon as the division took the field.

In one respect we most of us, I think, found Lord K. a little
difficult at times. He was apt to be impatient if, when he was at all
in a hurry, he required information from, or wanted something carried
out by, a subordinate. This impatience indeed rather disposed him to
rush his fences at times. Your book or your orator always extols the
man of lightning decision, and in time of war soldiers do often have
to make up their minds for better or for worse on the spur of the
moment. But there is a good deal to be said for very carefully
examining all the factors bearing upon the question at issue before
coming to a conclusion, if there be leisure for consideration. Certain
of the Secretary of State's colleagues were perpetually starting some
new hare or other overnight, and the result would often be that the
Chief would send for me at about 9.30 A.M., would give me some
brand-new document or would tell me of some fresh project that was
afoot, and would direct me to let him have a note on the subject not
later than 11 A.M., so that he should be fully posted up in the matter
by 11.30 A.M., when the War Council, or the Cabinet, or the
Dardanelles Committee, as the case might be, would be wanting to chat
about it.

One would thereupon proceed to investigate the project, or whatever
the thing was, would muster one's data, would probably consult some
subordinate and get him to lend a hand, and by, say, 10.15 A.M. one
had hurriedly drafted out a memorandum, and had handed it to one's
typists with injunctions that the draft must be reproduced at all
hazards within twenty minutes. About 10.30 A.M. a War Office
messenger, wearing a hunted look on his face, would appear at one's
door. "His Lordship wants to know, sir, if you have that paper ready
that he asked you for." "Tell him that he shall have it directly," and
one got on to the telephone to the clerks' room and enjoined despatch.
In another ten minutes, Lord K.'s Private Secretary, and one of the
best, Creedy, would turn up panting but trying not to look heated. "I
say, can't you let the S. of S. have that confounded paper he is
worrying about? Do be quick so that we may have some peace." Fresh
urgings through the telephone, accompanied by reminders that the
twenty minutes had more than elapsed. Five minutes later Fitzgerald
would arrive. "Look here! K.'s kicking up the devil's own fuss because
you won't let him have some paper or other. Typists? But it's always
those typists of yours, General. Why don't you have the lot up against
the wall out in the courtyard, and have them shot? It's the only thing
to do in these cases." When one had almost given up hope, the typist
would hurry in with a beautifully prepared document, and one would
rush off to the Chief. "Oh! Here you are at last. What a time you've
been. Now, let me see what you say.... Well, that seems all right. But
stop. Show me on the map where this place B---- that you mention is.
One of them may ask." They were just a little exhausting, those
occasions.

What exactly the tomfoolery is that expert typists engage on after
they have typed a document, I have never been able to discover. As
long as they are at play on their machines these whirr like the
propeller of a Handley-Page. They get down millions of words a minute.
But when they have got the job apparently done, they simmer away to
nothing. They perform mysterious rites with ink-eraser. They scratch
feebly with knives. They hold up to the light, they tittivate, they
muse and they adorn. It is not the slightest use intimating that you
do not care twopence whether there are typographic errors or not--the
expert typist treats you with the scorn that the expert always does
treat the layman with. At such junctures it is an advantage if the
typist happens to be a he, because you can tell him what you think of
him. If the typist happens to be a she, and you tell her what you
think of her, the odds are she will take cover under a flood of tears,
and goodness only knows what one is supposed to do then. Not that my
typists were not highly meritorious--I would not have exchanged them
with anybody. They merely played their game according to the rules.

Lord K. could no doubt be really unreasonable on occasion; but I can
only recall one instance of it in my own experience. It all arose over
our Military Attaché at our Paris embassy, Colonel H. Yarde-Buller,
having taken up his abode from an early date at Chantilly so as to be
in close touch with General Joffre's headquarters. Not being on the
spot at the Embassy, his work in the meantime was being done, and very
well done, by our Naval Attaché, Captain M. H. Hodges. I do not know
why it was, but one afternoon the Chief sent for me to say that a
Military Attaché was required at once in Paris, and that I was to
proffer names for him to choose from forthwith. After consultation
with my French experts, I produced a list of desirable candidates for
the post, all, to a man, equipped with incontestable qualifications.
But Lord K. would have none of my nominees, although he probably knew
uncommonly little about any of them. I tried one or two more casts,
but the Chief was really for the moment in an impossible mood. Even
Fitzgerald was in despair. At last the name of Colonel Le Roy Lewis
occurred to me, whom I somehow had not thought of before; but on
repairing to the Chief's anteroom, where Fitz always was, a restful
air was noticeable in the apartment, and Fitz acquainted me in a tone
of relief that the boss had gone off home. He moreover counselled me
to keep Le Roy Lewis up my sleeve and to lie low, as the whole thing
might have blown over by next day, and that is exactly what happened.
One heard no more about it; but several weeks later I began myself to
find that the military work in Paris was getting so heavy that we
ought to have an attaché of our own, instead of depending upon the
Admiralty's man, Hodges. So I went to Lord K., proposed the
appointment of a second Military Attaché, and suggested Le Roy Lewis
for the job. "Certainly," said Lord K.; "fix the business up with the
Foreign Office, or whatever's necessary." The fuss there had been a
few weeks before had apparently been forgotten.

His intimate acquaintance with the French language stood him in rare
stead, and this undoubtedly represented an asset to the country during
the period that he was War Minister. His actual phraseology and his
accent might peradventure not have been accounted quite faultless on
the boulevards; but he was wonderfully fluent, he never by any chance
paused for a word, and he always appeared to be perfectly familiar
with those happy little turns of speech to which the Gallic tongue so
particularly lends itself. The ease with which he took charge of, and
dominated, the whole proceedings on the occasion of one or two of the
earlier conferences on the farther side of the Channel between our
Ministers and the French astonished our representatives, as some of
them have told me. He thoroughly enjoyed discussions with foreign
officers who had been sent over officially to consult with the War
Office about matters connected with the war, and he always, as far as
one could judge, deeply impressed such visitors. I do not think that
the warmth with which some of them spoke about him after such pow-wows
when I ushered them out, was a mere manifestation of politeness. He
was gifted with a special bent for diplomacy, and he prided himself
with justice on the skill and tact with which he handled such
questions.

Quite early in the war--it must have been about November 1914--a small
Portuguese military mission turned up, bearers of a proposal that our
ancient ally should furnish a division to fight under Sir J. French's
orders on the Western Front. Our Government, as it happened, were not
anxious, on political grounds which need not be gone into here, for
open and active co-operation on the part of Portugal at this time.
Regarding the question from the purely military point of view, one
doubted whether the introduction into the Flanders war zone of
Portuguese troops, who would require certain material which we could
then ill spare before they took the field, would not be premature at
this early juncture. When tactfully interrogating concerning the
martial spirit, the training efficiency, and so forth, of the rank and
file, one was touched rather than exhilarated by the head of the
mission's expression of faith "ils savent mourir." The officers
composing the mission were, however, enthusiasts for their project,
and they were on that account somewhat difficult to keep, as it were,
at arm's length. But Lord K.'s management of the problem was masterly.

In the course of a protracted conference in his room, he contrived to
persuade our friends from Lisbon that the despatch of the division at
this moment would be a mistake from their, and from everybody else's,
point of view, and he extracted promises out of them to let us have
many thousands of their excellent Mauser rifles, together with a
goodly number of their Schneider-Canet field guns. The small arms (of
which we were horribly short at the time) proved invaluable in South
Africa and Egypt, while the guns served to re-equip the Belgian army
to some extent with field artillery. He managed to convince the
mission that this was by far the most effective form of assistance
which Portugal could then afford to the Entente--as was indeed the
case--and he sent them off, just a little bewildered perhaps, but
perfectly satisfied and even gratified. One felt a little bewildered
oneself, the whole business had been conducted with such nicety and
discretion.

His name counted for much in the armies of the Allies, as I myself
found later wherever I went in Russia. Foreign officers coming on
official errands to London, attached an enormous importance to
obtaining an interview with him, and he was very good about this. "Oh,
I can't be bothered with seeing the man," he would say; "you've told
him the thing's out of the question. What's the good of his coming to
me, taking up my time?" "But you see, sir," one would urge; "he's a
little rubbed up the wrong way at not getting what he wants, and will
not put the thing pleasantly to his own people when he fetches up at
their end. You can smooth him down as nobody else could, and then
he'll go away off out of this like a lamb and be quite good." "Oh
well, bring him along. But, look here. You must have him away again
sharp out of my room, or he'll keep on giving tongue here all the rest
of the day." What actually happened as a rule on such occasions was
that Lord K. would not let the missionary get a word in edgeways,
smothered him with cordiality, chattered away in French as if he were
wound up, and the difficulty was, not to carry the man off but to find
an opportunity for jumping up and thereby conveying a hint to our
friend that it was time to clear out. "Comme il est charmant, M. le
Maréchal," the gratified foreign officer would say after one had
grabbed him somehow and conducted him out of the presence; "je
n'oublierai de ma vie que je lui ai serré la main." And he would go
off back to where he had come from, as pleased as Punch, having
completely failed in his embassy.

But Lord K. could if the occasion called for it, adopt quite a
different tone when dealing with an Allied representative, and I have
a vivid remembrance of one such interview to which there seems to be
no harm in referring now. Some aspects of the tangled political web of
1915, in the Near East, will be dealt with at greater length in
Chapter VII. Suffice it to say here that, at the juncture under
reference, Serbia, with formidable German and Austro-Hungarian hosts
pouring into her territory from the north and aware that her
traditional foe, Bulgaria, was mobilizing, desired to attack Tsar
Ferdinand's realm before it was ready. That, from the purely military
point of view, was unquestionably the sound procedure to adopt.
"Thrice is he armed who has his quarrel just, but four times he who
gets his blow in fust." We know now that it would have been the sound
procedure to adopt, even allowing for arguments against such a course
that could be put forward from the political point of view. But our
Government's attitude was that, in view of engagements entered into by
Greece, the Serbs must not act aggressively against the still neutral
Bulgars. Nor do I think that, seeing how contradictory and
inconclusive the information was upon which they were relying, they
were to blame for maintaining an attitude which in the event had
untoward consequences.

One afternoon the Serbian Military Attaché came to see me. He called
in to beg us soldiers to do our utmost to induce H.M. Government to
acquiesce in an immediate offensive on the part of King Peter's troops
against the forces of the neighbouring State, which were mobilizing
and were evidently bent on mischief. I presented our Government's case
as well as I could, although my sympathies were in fact on military
grounds entirely on the side of my visitor. He thereupon besought me
to take him to Lord Kitchener, and I did so. The Chief talked the
question over in the friendliest and most sympathetic manner, he gave
utterance to warm appreciation of the vigorous, heroic stand which the
sore-beset little Allied nation had made, and was making, in face of
dangers that were gathering ever thicker, he expressed deep regret at
our inability to give effective assistance, and he admitted that from
the soldier's point of view there was much to be said for the
contention that an immediate blow should be struck at Serbia's eastern
neighbour. But he stated our Government's attitude in the matter
clearly and uncompromisingly, and he would not budge an inch on the
subject of our sanctioning or approving an attack upon Bulgaria so
long as Bulgaria remained neutral.

The Attaché protested eagerly, volubly, stubbornly, pathetically, but
all to no purpose. Then, when at last we rose to our feet, Lord K.,
finding his visitor wholly unconvinced, drew himself up to his full
height. He seemed to tower over the Attaché, who was himself a tall
man, and--well, it is hard to set down in words the happenings of a
tense situation. The scene was one that I never shall forget, as, by
his demeanour rather than by any words of his, Lord K. virtually
issued a command that no Serb soldier was to cross the Bulgar border
unless the Bulgars embarked on hostilities. The Attaché stood still a
moment; then he put his kepi on, saluted gravely, turned round and
went out without a word. I followed him out on to the landing. "Mon
Dieu!" he said; "mon Dieu!" And then he went slowly down the great
marble staircase, looking a broken man. But for that interview the
Serbs might perhaps have given their treacherous neighbours an
uncommonly nasty jar before these got going, and this might have
rendered their own military situation decidedly less tragic than it
came to be within a very few days. But I do not see that Lord
Kitchener could have done otherwise than support the attitude of the
Government of which he was a member.

Striking testimony to the confidence which his name inspired amongst
our Allies is afforded by the action of the Russians in the summer of
1915, in entrusting the question of their being furnished with
munitions from the United States into his hands. They came to him as a
child comes to its mother. This, be it noted, was at a time when our
own army fighting in many fields was notoriously none too well fitted
out with weapons nor with ammunition for them, at a time when the most
powerful group of newspapers in this country had recently been making
a pointed attack upon him in connection with this very matter, at a
time when an idea undoubtedly existed in many quarters in the United
Kingdom that the provision of vital war material had been neglected
and botched under his control. That there was no justification
whatever for that idea does not alter the fact that the idea
prevailed. As I assumed special responsibilities in connection with
Russian supplies at a later date, a date subsequent to the _Hampshire_
catastrophe, and as the subject of munitions will be dealt with in a
later chapter, no more need be said on the subject here. But the point
seemed to deserve mention at this stage.

We came rather to dread the occasions when the Chief was going to
deliver one of his periodical orations in the House of Lords.
Singularly enough, he used to take these speeches of his, in which he
took good care never to tell his auditors anything that they did not
know before, quite seriously--a good deal more seriously than we did.
He prepared them laboriously, absorbing a good deal of his own time,
and some of the time of certain of those under him, and then he would
read out his rough draft to one, asking for approval and grateful for
hints. He was always delighted to have some felicitous turn of
expression proffered him, and he would discuss its merits at some
length as compared with his own wording, ending by inserting it in the
draft or rejecting it, as the case might be. I remember on one
occasion, when he was going to fire off one of these addresses, just
about the time when the great Boche thrust of 1915 into the heart of
Russia came to an end, his making use of the idiom that the German
"bolt was about shot." I objected. "Don't you like the phrase?"
demanded Lord K. I admitted that it was an excellent phrase in itself,
but urged that it was not altogether applicable, that the enemy seemed
to have come to a standstill, not because he could get no farther but
because he did not want to go farther, meaning to divert force in some
new direction, and that the words somehow represented our principal
foe as in worse case than was correct. Lord K. seemed disappointed. He
said that he would consider the matter, and he made a note on his
draft. But he stuck to his guns as it turned out; he used the phrase
in the Upper House a day or two later, and it was somewhat criticised
in the newspapers at the time. He was, I believe, so much captivated
by his little figure of speech that he simply could not bear to part
with it.

He was a regular salamander. The heat of his room, owing to the huge
fire that he always maintained if it was in the least cold outside and
to the double windows designed to keep out the noise of Whitehall, was
at times almost unbearable. One's head would be in a buzz after being
in it for some time. His long sojourn in southern lands no doubt
rendered him very susceptible to low temperatures. On one occasion,
when General Joffre had sent over a couple of superior staff officers
to discuss some questions with him, the four of us sat at his table
for an hour and a half, and the two visitors and I were almost [p.79] in a
state of collapse at the end. "Mais la chaleur! Pouf! C'était
assommant!" I heard one say to the other as they left the room, not
noticing that I was immediately behind.

Lord Kitchener's judgement in respect to general military policy in
the Near East and the Levant, during the time that he was War Minister
was, I think, to some small extent warped at times by excessive
preoccupation with regard to Egypt and the Sudan. His hesitation to
concur in the evacuation of the Gallipoli Peninsula until he had
convinced himself of the urgent necessity of the step by personal
observation, was, I am sure, prompted by his fears as to the evil
moral effect which such a confession of failure would exert in the
Nile Delta, and up the valley of the great river. Soon after Sir
Archie Murray had become C.I.G.S., and when the War Council had taken
to asking for the considered views of the General Staff upon problems
of the kind, a paper had to be prepared on the subject of how best to
secure Egypt. This document I drafted in the rough in the first
instance. Sir Archie and we Directors of the General Staff then went
carefully through it and modified it in some respects. Its purport
when presented was that the proper course to pursue with regard to
Egypt would be to depend upon holding the line of the Suez Canal, and
some minor areas in front of it, as a comparatively small force would
suffice for the purpose.

Lord K. was much disappointed. He sent for me, expressed himself as
strongly opposed to our view, and he seemed rather hurt at the
attitude we had taken up. He favoured the despatch of a body of troops
to the Gulf of Alexandretta with the idea of carrying on a very active
defence; he wished to keep the enemy as far away from Egypt as
possible for fear of internal disturbances, and this opinion was, I
know, concurred in by Sir R. Wingate and Sir J. Maxwell. We should, no
doubt, have concurred in that view likewise, had there been unlimited
numbers of divisions to dispose of, and had there been no U-boats
about. But an army merely sufficient to hold the Egyptian frontier
would have been entirely inadequate to start a campaign based on the
sea in northern Syria, and experiences in the Dardanelles theatre of
war hardly offered encouragement for embarking on ventures on the
shores of the Levant. Lord K. called Sir D. Haig, who happened to be
over on short leave at the time, into counsel; Sir Douglas supported
the contention that a comparatively small force distributed about the
Canal would render things secure. The Chief then despatched General
Home (who in those days was known rather as an expert gunner than as
commander of aggregates of army corps) to Egypt to report; I had
ceased to be D.M.O. before the report came to hand, but I believe that
it favoured our plan, the plan which actually was adopted and which
served its purpose for many months.

A good many of us in the War Office were a little inclined to cavil at
our Chief's deliberation in the matter of demanding a system of
national service, when the country had arrived at the stage where
expansion of the fighting forces was no longer hopelessly retarded by
lack of war material. But, looking back upon the events of the first
year of the war, one realizes now that if he made a mistake over this
subject it was in not establishing the principle by statute at the
very beginning, in the days when he was occupying a position in the
eyes of his countrymen such as no British citizen had enjoyed for
generations. He could have done what he liked at the start. The nation
was solid behind him. Not Great Britain alone, but also Ireland, would
have swallowed conscription with gusto in September 1914, after the
retreat from Mons. Our man-power could in that case have been tapped
gradually, by methods that were at once scientific and equitable, so
as to cause the least possible disturbance to the country's productive
capacity.

Twelve months later, he had ceased to present quite so commanding a
figure to the proletariat as he had presented when first he was called
in to save the situation. Of this he was probably quite aware himself,
and it is a great mistake to suppose that he was indifferent to
public opinion or even to the opinion of the Press. By that time,
moreover, he was probably a good deal hampered by some of his
colleagues and their pestilent pre-war pledges. A good many
politicians nowadays find it convenient to forget that during those
very days when the secret information reaching them must surely have
made them aware of Germany's determination to make war on a suitable
opportunity presenting itself, they were making the question of
compulsory service virtually a party matter, and were binding
themselves to oppose it tooth and nail. The statemonger always assumes
that the public take his pledges (which he never boggles over breaking
for some purely factious object) seriously. The public may be silly,
but they are not quite so silly as that.

Having missed the tide when it was at the flood, Lord K. was wise in
acting with circumspection, and in rather shrinking from insisting
upon compulsion so long as it had not become manifestly and
imperatively necessary. When, in the early autumn of 1915, he told me
off as a kind of bear-leader to a Cabinet Committee presided over by
Lord Crewe, which was to go into the general question of man-power and
of the future development of the forces--a Committee which was
intended, as far as I could make out, to advise as to whether
compulsory service was to be adopted or not--I found him a little
unapproachable and disinclined to commit himself. I was, of course,
only supposed to assist in respect to information and as regards
technical military points; but it would have been a help to know
exactly what one's Chief desired and thought. Fitzgerald was a great
standby on such occasions. I gathered from him that the Secretary of
State was not anxious to precipitate bringing the question to a head,
with the conception ever at the back of his mind of conserving
sufficient fighting resources under his hand to deal the decisive blow
in the war when the psychological moment should come, months ahead. He
was not, in 1915, looking to 1916; he was looking to 1917, having
made up his mind from the outset that this was to be a prolonged war
of attrition. He, no more than all others, could foresee that the
Russian revolution was to occur and was to delay the final triumph of
the Entente for full twelve months.

The last time that I saw the greatest of our War Ministers was a day
or two before he started on his fatal expedition to Russia. I had
recently come back from that country, and had been able to give him
and Fitzgerald some useful hints as to minor points--kit, having all
available decorations handy to put on for special occasions, taking
large-sized photographs to dole out as presents, and so forth. He was
very anxious to get back speedily, and had been somewhat disturbed to
hear that things moved slowly in the Tsar's dominions, and that the
trip would inevitably take considerably longer than he had counted on.
I had urged him not to be in too great haste--to visit several groups
of armies, and to show himself in Moscow and Kieff, feeling absolutely
convinced that if the most was made of his progress through Russian
territory it would do an immense amount of good. But he was in just as
great a hurry to get journeys over in 1916 as he had been in South
African days, when he used to risk a smash by requiring the trains in
which he roamed the theatre of war to travel at a speed beyond that
which was safe on such tortuous tracks; and it is easy to understand
how hard-set, with so impetuous a passenger, the Admiralissimo of the
Grand Fleet would have been to delay the departure of the _Hampshire_
merely on the grounds of rough weather on the day on which she put to
sea.

On that last occasion when I saw him the Field-Marshal was in rare
spirits, looking forward eagerly to his time in Russia, merry as a
schoolboy starting for his holidays, only anxious to be off. With that
incomparable gift of his for interpreting the essentials of a
situation, he fully realized how far-reaching might be the
consequences of the undertaking to which he stood committed. The
public of this country perhaps hardly realize that the most
unfortunate feature of his death at that time, from the national point
of view, was that it prevented his Russian trip. Had it not been for
the disaster of the 5th of June 1916 off the Orkneys, that convulsion
of March 1917 in the territories of our great eastern Ally might never
have occurred, or it might at least have been deferred until after the
war had been brought to a happy termination. Apart from this, Lord
Kitchener's work was almost done. Thanks to him, the United Kingdom
had, alike in respect to men and to material, been transformed into a
great military Power, and yet further developments had been assured.
The employing of the instrument which he had created could be left to
other hands.

Many appreciations of him appeared at the time of his lamented
passing, and have appeared since. His character and his qualifications
as man of action and elaborator had not always been appraised quite
correctly during his lifetime, and they are a subject of differences
of opinion still. Often was he spoken of as a great organizer and
administrator. But his claim to possess such qualifications rested
rather upon the results that he obtained than upon the methods by
which he obtained them. Of detail he possessed no special mastery, and
yet he would concern himself with questions of detail which might well
have been left to subordinates to deal with. He won the confidence of
those under him not so much through trusting them in the sense of
leaving them responsibility, as through compelling them to trust him
by the force of his personality and by the wide compass of his outlook
upon the numberless questions that were ever at issue. He had been
described as harsh, taciturn, and unbending. He was on the contrary a
delightful chief to serve once one understood his ways, although he
would stand no nonsense and, like most people, was occasionally out of
humour and exacting.

A more cunning hand than mine is needed to depict adequately the great
soldier-statesman. But this I would say. There has been much foolish
talk as to this individual and to that having won the war. That any
one person could have won the war is on the face of it an absurdity.
The greatest factor in achieving the result was the British Navy; but
who would claim that any one of the chieftains in our fleets or
pulling the naval strings ashore decided the issue of the struggle?
Next, however, to what our sailors achieved afloat, the most important
influence in giving victory to the side of the Entente was the
development, to an extent previously undreamt of, of the British
fighting resources ashore. That was primarily the handiwork of Lord
Kitchener. His country can fairly claim that he accomplished more than
did any other individual--French, American, Italian, Russian,
British--to bring German militarism to the ground.

No reference to the famous Field-Marshal's career during the Great War
would be complete without one word as to "Fitz." Fitzgerald was, after
a fashion, the complement of his Chief. We in Whitehall would have
been lost without him. A comparatively junior officer, he was looked
upon with some suspicion by those high up in the War Office just at
first, in consequence of the exceptional influence that he enjoyed
with the War Minister, and of his always knowing more about what was
going on than anybody else but the War Minister himself. But all hands
speedily came to appreciate the rare qualities of this seeming
interloper, to realize what useful services he was able and ever ready
to perform, and to turn his presence at his Chief's elbow to the best
account. Sometimes he would be acting as a buffer; at other times he
assumed the rôle of coupling-chain. Lord Kitchener frequently employed
him to convey instructions verbally, and on such occasions the
emissary always knew exactly what was in the War Minister's mind. If
after an interview with the Chief one felt any doubts as to what was
required of one, a hint to Fitz would be sure to secure the
information of which one stood in need. Lord K. reposed implicit
confidence in the judgement of this Personal Military Secretary of
his, and with good reason. Often when the solution of some problem
under discussion appeared to be open to question, he would say, "Let's
have in Fitz and see what he thinks."

The relations between them were like father and son. Each swore by the
other, and Lord K. indeed never seemed better pleased than when one
showed a liking for the Bengal Lancer whom he had chosen when in India
and attached to himself. "I'll go and talk it over with Fitz, sir,"
was sure to be rewarded with a pleasant smile and a "Yes, do."
Possessing a charming personality, a keen intellect, a fund of humour
and a considerable knowledge of the world, Fitz was an extremely
attractive figure quite apart from the exceptional qualifications
which he possessed for a post which he filled with so much credit to
himself, and with such advantage to others. Of the thousands who went
down in the great struggle, few were probably more sincerely mourned
by hosts of friends than the gallant soldier whose body, washed ashore
on the iron-bound coast of the Orkneys, we laid to rest one showery
June afternoon in the hillside cemetery overlooking Eastbourne.



CHAPTER V

THE DARDANELLES

     The Tabah incident -- The Dardanelles memorandum of 1906 --
     Special steps taken with regard to it by Sir H.
     Campbell-Bannerman -- Mr. Churchill first raises the question --
     My conference with him in October 1914 -- The naval project
     against the Straits -- Its fundamental errors -- Would never have
     been carried into effect had there been a conference between the
     Naval War Staff and the General Staff -- The bad start -- The
     causes of the final failure on the 18th of March -- Lord K.'s
     instructions to Sir I. Hamilton -- The question of the packing of
     the transports -- Sir I. Hamilton's complaint as to there being
     no plan prepared -- The 1906 memorandum -- Sir Ian's complaint
     about insufficient information -- How the 1906 memorandum
     affected this question -- Misunderstanding as to the difficulty
     of obtaining information -- The information not in reality so
     defective -- My anxiety at the time of the first landing -- The
     plan, a failure by early in May -- Impossibility of sending out
     reinforcements then -- Question whether the delay in sending out
     reinforcements greatly affected the result in August 1915 -- The
     Dardanelles Committee -- Its anxiety -- Sir E. Carson and Mr.
     Churchill, allies -- The question of clearing out -- My
     disinclination to accept the principle before September -- Sir C.
     Monro sent out -- The delay of the Government in deciding -- Lord
     K. proceeds to the Aegean -- My own experiences -- A trip to
     Paris with a special message to the French Government -- Sent on
     a fool's errand, thanks to the Cabinet -- A notable state paper
     on the subject -- Mr. Lloyd George and the "sanhedrin" --
     Decision to evacuate only Anzac and Suvla -- Sir W. Robertson
     arrives and orders are sent to evacuate Helles -- I give up the
     appointment of D.M.O.


No sooner did disquieting intelligence come to hand to the effect that
the Ottoman authorities had given the _Goeben_ and the _Breslau_ a
suspicious welcome in Turkish waters during the opening weeks of the
great struggle, than it became apparent that war with a fresh
antagonist was at least on the cards. It was, moreover, obvious that
if there were to be a rupture between the Entente and the Sublime
Porte, the Bosphorus was certain to be closed as a line of
communication between the Western Powers and Russia. Such an
eventuality was bound to exercise a far-reaching influence over the
course of the war as a whole. One therefore naturally gave some
attention to the possibilities involved in an undertaking against
Constantinople and the Straits--a subject with which by chance I
happened to be probably as familiar as anybody in the army.

Some eight years before, in the early part of 1906, H.M. Government
had found itself at variance with the Sublime Porte in connection with
a spot called Tabah at the head of the Gulf of Akaba, which we
regarded as within the dominions of the Khedive but which Osmanli
troops had truculently taken possession of. The Sultan's advisers had
been rather troublesome about the business, and Downing Street and the
Foreign Office had been obliged to take up a firm attitude before the
Ottoman Government unwillingly climbed down. I had been in charge of
the strategical section of the Military Operations Directorate at that
time, and, in considering what we might be able to do in the military
line supposing that things came to a head, had investigated the
problems involved in gaining possession of the Dardanelles. Some years
earlier, moreover, I had passed through the Straits and had spent a
night at Chanak in the Narrows, taking careful note of the lie of the
land, of the batteries as then existing, and so forth.

After an accommodation had been arrived at with Johnny Turk in 1906,
the Committee of Imperial Defence had followed up this question of
operations against the Hellespont, more or less as an academic
question; and I had drafted a paper on the subject, which was gone
through line by line by General Spencer Ewart who was then D.M.O., in
consultation with myself, was modified in some minor respects by him,
was initialed by General Lyttelton, the Chief of the General Staff,
and was accepted in principle by the C.I.D., Sir J. Fisher (as he then
was) having as First Sea Lord expressed his full concurrence with the
views therein expressed. These in effect "turned" the project "down."
When about the end of August I searched for the 1906 memorandum in the
files of the Committee of Imperial Defence papers which were in my
safe, I found a note in the file concerned to say that by order of the
Prime Minister the memorandum had been withdrawn. The reason for this
I discovered at a later date. Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman had fully
realized the importance of this Dardanelles transaction of 1906. He
had perceived that it was a matter of quite exceptional secrecy. He
had dreaded the disastrous results which might well arise were news by
any mischance to leak out and to reach the Sublime Porte that the
naval and military authorities in this country had expressed the
opinion that successful attack upon the Dardanelles was virtually
impracticable, and that H.M. Government had endorsed this view. Tell
the Turk that, and our trump card was gone. We could then no longer
bluff the Ottoman Government in the event of war with feints of
operations against the Straits--the very course which I believe would
have been adopted in 1914-1915, had the Admiralty War Staff and the
General Staff considered the question together without Cabinet
interference and submitted a joint report for the information of the
War Council. That 1906 memorandum and the Committee of Imperial
Defence transactions in connection with it were treated differently
from any C.I.D. documents of analogous kind then or, as far as I know,
subsequently. I never saw the memorandum from 1906 till one day in May
1915, when Mr. Asquith pushed a copy across the table to me at a
meeting of the War Council in Downing Street, and I recognized it at
once as in great measure my own production. It would not seem to have
been brought to the notice of the Dardanelles Commission that the
memorandum (to which several references are made in their Reports) was
practically accepted by the Committee of Imperial Defence as governing
the military policy of the country with respect to attack on the
Straits in the event of war.

The consequence of my having made myself familiar with the question in
the past was that, when at the beginning of September 1914 Mr.
Churchill raised the question of a conjunct Greek and British
enterprise against the Straits, it was a simple matter for me to
prepare a short memorandum on the subject, a memorandum of a decidedly
discouraging nature. As a matter of fact, what was perhaps the
strongest argument against the undertaking at that time was by
oversight omitted from the document--the Greeks had no howitzers or
mobile heavy artillery worth mentioning, and any ordnance of that
class that we disposed of in the Mediterranean was of the prehistoric
kind. The slip was of no great importance, however, because there
never was the remotest chance of King Constantine, who was no mean
judge of warlike problems, letting his country in for so dubious an
enterprise.

We were not actually at war with the Ottoman Empire for another two
months. But hostilities had virtually become certain during the month
of October, and one morning in the latter part of that month the First
Lord sent a message across asking me to come over to his room and
discuss possibilities in connection with the Dardanelles. I found the
First Sea Lord (Prince Louis of Battenberg) and the Fourth Sea Lord
(Commodore C. F. Lambert) waiting, as well as Mr. Churchill, and we
sat round a table with all the maps and charts that were necessary for
our purpose spread out on it. The problem of mastering the Straits was
examined entirely from the point of view of a military operation based
upon, and supported by, naval power. If the question of a fleet attack
upon the defences within the defile was mentioned at all, it was only
referred to quite incidentally.

From my own observation on the spot, and as a result of later
examination of maps, charts, confidential reports, and so forth, I had
come to the conclusion that the key to the Dardanelles lay in the
Kilid Bahr plateau, which dominates the channel at its very narrowest
point from the European (Gallipoli Peninsula) side. By far the best
plan of gaining possession of this high ground would, I considered, be
to land, by surprise if possible, the biggest military force that
could be very rapidly put ashore on that long stretch of coast-line
practicable for troops to disembark from boats in fine weather, which
was situated about the locality that has since become immortalized as
Anzac Cove. A project on these lines is what we actually discussed
that morning in the First Lord's room. I pointed out the difficulties
and the dangers involved, _i.e._ the virtual impossibility of
effecting a real surprise, the perils inseparable from a
disembarkation in face of opposition, the certainty that the enemy was
even now improving the land defences of the Gallipoli Peninsula, and
the fact that, at the moment, we had no troops to carry such a scheme
out and that we were most unlikely to have any to spare for such an
object for months to come. One somewhat controversial tactical point I
gave particular attention to--the efficacy of the fire of warships
when covering a military landing and when endeavouring to silence
field-guns on shore; my own view was that the potentialities of a
fleet under such conditions were apt to be greatly overestimated. My
exposition was intended to be dissuasive, and I think that Mr.
Churchill was disappointed.

We had a most pleasant discussion, the First Lord having a good
working knowledge of military questions owing to his early career and
training, and being therefore able to appreciate professional points
which might puzzle the majority of civilians. At the end of it he
seemed to clearly realize what a very serious operation of war a
military undertaking against the Straits was likely to be, but he
dwelt forcibly, and indeed enthusiastically, upon the results that
would be gained by the Entente in the event of such an undertaking
being successfully carried out--on that subject we were all quite at
one. The story of this informal pow-wow has been recorded thus at
length, because it was really the only occasion on which the General
Staff were afforded anything like a proper opportunity of expressing
an opinion as to operations against the Dardanelles, until after the
country had been engulfed up to the neck in the morass and was
irretrievably committed to an amphibious campaign on a great scale in
the Gallipoli Peninsula. Prince Louis resigned his position as First
Sea Lord a few days later; Commodore Lambert often mentioned the
pow-wow in conversation with me in later days, after the mischief (for
which the professional side of the Admiralty was only very partially
to blame) had been done.

As one gradually became acquainted in the following January with the
nature of the naval scheme for dealing with the Straits, it was
difficult not to feel apprehension. While, as Brigade-Major R.A. in
the Western Command and later as commanding a company of R.G.A. at
Malta, concerned with coast defence principles, the tactical rather
than the technical scientific side of such problems had always
interested me. When musing, during those interminable waits which take
place in the course of a day's gun practice from a coast-defence
battery, as to what would be likely to happen in the event of the work
actually engaging a hostile armament, one could picture oneself driven
from the guns under the hail of flying fragments of rock, concrete,
and metal thrown up by the ships' huge projectiles. But one did not
picture the battery as destroyed and rendered of no effect. Anybody
who has tried both is aware how infinitely easier gun practice is at
even a moving target on the water than it is at a target on land. One
foresaw that the enemy's warships would plaster the vicinity of the
work with projectiles, and would create conditions disastrous to human
life if the gun-detachments did not go to ground, but that they would
not often, if ever, actually hit the mark and demolish guns and
mountings.

The Admiralty's creeping form of attack, chosen on Admiral Carden's
initiative, ignored this aspect of the question altogether. The whole
scheme hinged upon _destroying_ the Ottoman coast batteries, the very
thing that ships find it hardest to do. They can silence batteries;
but what is the good of that if they then clear out and allow the
defenders to come back and clean up? The creeping plan, moreover,
obviously played into the hands of Turkish mobile guns, which would
turn up in new positions on successive days, and which, as I had told
Mr. Churchill three months before, our ships would find most difficult
to deal with; these guns would probably give the mine-sweepers much
more trouble than the heavy ordnance in the enemy's fixed defences.
Then, again, one could not but be aware that the Sister Service was
none too well equipped for dealing with the enigma of mines in any
form--that had become obvious to those behind the scenes during the
first six months of the war--and one's information pointed to the
Turkish mine-defence of the Dardanelles being more up to date than was
their gun-defence. Finally, and much the most important of all, this
deliberate procedure was the worst possible method to adopt from the
army's point of view, supposing the plan to fail and the army then to
be called in to pull the chestnuts out of the fire. The enemy would
have been given full warning, and would deliberately have been allowed
what the Turk always stands in need of when on the war-path--time to
prepare.

The "First Report" of the Dardanelles Commission, as well as
sidelights thrown upon the affair from other quarters, have
established that of the three eminent naval experts who dealt with the
project and who were more or less responsible for its being put into
execution, two, Sir Arthur Wilson and Sir Henry Jackson, were by no
means enthusiastic about it, while the third, Lord Fisher, was opposed
to it but allowed himself to be overruled by the War Council. Had
those three admirals met three representatives of the General Staff,
Sir J. Wolfe-Murray, General Kiggell and myself, let us say, sitting
round a table with no Cabinet Ministers present, I am certain that
the report that we should have drawn up would have been dead against
the whole thing. The objections raised from the military side would
have been quite sufficient to dispel any doubts that the sailors had
left on the subject. As for that naïve theory that we might draw back
in the middle of the naval operations supposing that the business went
awry, of which I do not remember hearing at the time---- Pooh! We
could hardly, left to ourselves, have been such flats as to take that
seriously.

The cable message from Tenedos which announced the result of the first
effort against the conspicuous and comparatively feeble works that
defended the mouth of the Straits, was the reverse of heartening. The
bombarding squadron enjoyed an overwhelming superiority in armament
from every point of view--range, weight of metal, and accuracy. The
conditions were almost ideal for the attacking side, as there was
plenty of sea-room and no worry about mines. If the warships could not
finally dispose of Turkish works such as this, and with everything
favourable, by long-range fire, then long-range fire was "off." Once
inside the Straits, the fleet, manoeuvring without elbow-room, would
have to get pretty near its work, mines or no mines, if it was going
to do any good. The idea of the _Queen Elizabeth_ pitching her stuff
over the top of the Gallipoli Peninsula left one cold. Several days
before Admiral de Robeck delivered his determined attack upon the
defences of the Narrows of the 18th of March, one had pretty well made
up one's mind that the thing was going to be a failure, and that the
army was going to be let in for an extremely uncomfortable business.

Accounts emanating from the Turkish side have suggested that the naval
operations were within an ace of succeeding, and that they only had to
be pressed a little further to achieve their object. An examination of
the books by Mr. Morgenthau and others does not bear this out. The
Turks imagined that our fleet had been beaten off by gun-fire on the
18th, and they appear to have got nervous because the ammunition for
certain of their heaviest guns was running short. Their heavy guns,
and the ammunition for them, was a matter of quite secondary
importance. The fleet was beaten off owing to the effect of the
drifting mines. The Turks thought that the damage done to the ships
was due to their batteries, when it was in reality caused by their
mines. They did not appreciate the situation correctly, for they do
not appear to have been short of mines. The Russian plan of letting
these engines of destruction loose at the Black Sea end of the
Bosphorus to drift down with the current indeed provided the Osmanlis
with a constant supply of excellent ones; they were picked up, shipped
down to the Dardanelles, and used against the Allies' fleet. These
weapons, drifting and fixed, together with the mobile artillery which
so seriously interfered with mine-sweeping, proved to be the trump
cards in the hands of Johnny Turk and his Boche assistants.

I was present when Lord Kitchener met Sir I. Hamilton and his chief
staff-officer, General Braithwaite, and gave Sir Ian his instructions.
At that time Lord K. still hoped that, in so far as forcing the
Dardanelles was concerned, the fleet would effect its purpose,
practically if not wholly unaided by the troops. These were designed
rather for operations subsequent to the fall of what was after all but
the first line of Ottoman defence. It was only after Sir Ian arrived
on the spot that the naval attack actually failed and that military
operations on an ambitious scale against the Gallipoli Peninsula took
the stage. The fact that when the transports arrived at Mudros they
were found not to be packed suitably for effecting an immediate
disembarkation on hostile soil, has been a good deal criticized.
Although it was not a matter within my responsibility, I was sharply
heckled over the point by Captain Stephen Gwynne when before the
Dardanelles Commission. But the troops left before there was any
question of attempting a landing in force in face of the enemy in
the immediate vicinity of the Straits. At the date when they sailed it
remained quite an open question as to what exactly their task was to
be. The transports could not have been appropriately packed even after
military operations in the Gallipoli Peninsula had been decided upon,
without knowing exactly what was Sir Ian's plan.

Sir Ian complained to the Dardanelles Commission that no preliminary
scheme of operations had been drawn up by the War Office; and he
certainly got little assistance in that direction, although it might
not have been of much use to him if he had.[4] He also complained that
there was a great want of staff preparation, no arrangements for
water, for instance, having been made. This was in effect the
consequence of the General Staff at this time not exercising its
proper functions or being invested with the powers to which it was
entitled. There never was a meeting of the various directors in the
War Office concerned, under the aegis of the General Staff, to go into
these matters in detail. The troops would certainly be called upon to
land somewhere, sooner or later, whether the fleet forced the
Dardanelles or not, and all the arrangements as regards supplies,
transport, water, hospitals, material for piers, etc., required to be
worked out by those responsible after getting a lead from the General
Staff. If the commodities of all kinds involved could not be procured
locally or in Egypt, then it was up to the War Office to see that
they should be sent out from home, and be sent out, moreover,
practically at the same time as the troops left so that they should be
on the spot when needed.

                   [Footnote 4: A single "preliminary scheme of
                   operations" would have been of little service to
                   the C.-in-C. of "Medforce"--it must have been based
                   on the mistaken assumption (which held good when he
                   started) that the fleet would force the Straits,
                   and it would consequently have concerned itself
                   with undertakings totally different from those
                   which, in the event, Sir Ian had to carry out. If
                   the army was to derive any benefit from projects
                   elaborated in the War Office, there must have been
                   a second "preliminary scheme of operations" based
                   on the assumption that the fleet was going to fail.
                   What profit is there in a plan of campaign that
                   dictates procedure to be followed after the first
                   great clash of arms? In the case under
                   consideration, the first great clash of arms befell
                   on the 18th of March, five days after Sir Ian left
                   London with his instructions, and it turned the
                   whole business upside down.]

Sir Ian also mentioned that he had not been shown the 1906 memorandum
before going to the Near East. As it turned out, the mystery made
about this document (although there was excellent reason for the
special steps that were taken in connection with it at the time of its
coming before the Committee of Imperial Defence) proved inconvenient
in 1914-15. One wonders, indeed, whether it was ever seen by the
Admiralty experts at the time when they had Admiral Carden's plan of a
creeping naval attack upon the Dardanelles under consideration,
because the memorandum expressed considerable doubts as to the
efficacy of gun-fire from on board ship against the land, and the
event proved that these doubts were fully justified. Had I had a copy
in my possession I should certainly have shown it to Sir Ian, or else
to Braithwaite, with whom, as he had been a brother-Director on the
General Staff at the War Office for some months previously, I was in
close touch.

Sir Ian, the Report says, "dwelt strongly on the total absence of
information furnished him by the War Office staff," and he complained
very justly that the map, or maps, given him had proved inaccurate and
inadequate. Now, that reflected upon Generals Ewart and H. Wilson, who
had been holding the appointment of D.M.O. between 1906 and 1914, and
it reflected upon Sir N. Lyttelton, the late Lord Nicholson (actually
a member of the Commission) and Sir J. French, who had successively
been Chiefs of the General Staff during the same period. Topographical
information cannot be procured after hostilities have broken out; it
has to be obtained in advance. On noting what was said about this in
the "First Report" of the Dardanelles Commission, I asked to be
allowed to give evidence again, and the Commission were good enough to
recall me in due course. The object was, not to contest Sir I.
Hamilton's assertions but to point out that under the circumstances
of the case no blame was fairly attributable to those who were
responsible for information of some sort being available.

To have obtained full information as to the Gallipoli Peninsula and
the region around the Dardanelles, but especially as to the peninsula,
was a matter of money--and plenty of it. In no country in the world in
pre-war days was spying on fortified areas of strategical importance
without money a more unprofitable game than in the Ottoman dominions.
There were, on the other hand, few countries where money, if you had
enough of it, was more sure to procure you the information that you
required. Ever since the late General Brackenbury was at the head of
the Intelligence Department of the War Office in the eighties secret
funds have been at its disposal, but they have not been large, and
there have always been plenty of desirable objects to devote those
funds to. Had the Committee of Imperial Defence in 1906 taken the line
that, even admitting an attack upon the Straits to be a difficult
business, its effect if successful was nevertheless likely to be so
great that the matter was one to be followed up, a pretty substantial
share of the secret funds coming to hand in the Intelligence
Department between 1906 and 1914 would surely have been devoted to
this region. All kinds of topographical details concerning the
immediate neighbourhood of the Dardanelles would thereby have been got
together, ready for use; it would somehow have been discovered in the
environs of Stamboul that the Gallipoli Peninsula had been surveyed
and that good large-scale maps of that region actually existed, and
copies of those large-scale maps would have found their way into the
War Office, where they would speedily have been reproduced.

It was made plain to me when giving evidence before the Commission
that the Rt. Hon. A. Fisher and Sir T. Mackenzie, its members
representing the Antipodes, considered that there had been great
neglect on the part of the War Office in obtaining information with
regard to the environs of the Dardanelles in advance. But, quite
apart from the peculiar situation created by the decision of the
Committee of Imperial Defence, there must have been serious
difficulties in obtaining such information about the Gallipoli
Peninsula--only those who have had experience in such matters know how
great the difficulties are. Intelligence service in peace time is a
subject of which the average civilian does not understand the meaning
nor realize the dangers. The Commission, which included experts in
such matters in the shape of Admiral Sir W. May and Lord Nicholson,
made no comment on this point in its final Report, evidently taking
the broad view that the lack of information was, under all the
circumstances of the case, excusable. In his special Report, Sir T.
Mackenzie on the other hand blames the Imperial General Staff for
being "unprepared for operations against the Dardanelles and
Bosphorus," obviously having the question of information in his mind,
as he must be perfectly well aware that the planning of actual
operations was just as much a matter for the Admiralty as for the
General Staff, the whole problem being manifestly an amphibious one.

As a matter of fact, considering the kind of place that the Gallipoli
Peninsula was, and taking into consideration the extreme jealousy with
which the Turks, quite properly from their point of view, had always
regarded the appearance of strangers in that well-watched region, the
information contained in the secret official publications which the
Mediterranean Expeditionary Force took out with it was by no means to
be despised. All but one of the landing places actually utilized on
the famous 25th of April were, I think, designated in these booklets,
and that one was unsuitable for landing anything but infantry. A great
deal of the information proved to be perfectly correct, and a good
deal more of it might have proved to be correct had the Expeditionary
Force ever penetrated far enough into the interior of the Peninsula to
test it.

There had been many occasions giving grounds for disquietude since the
days of Mons, but I never felt greater anxiety at any time during the
war than when awaiting tidings as to the landing on the Aegean shore.
We knew that this was about to take place, but I was not aware of the
details of Sir I. Hamilton's plan. Soldiers who had examined carefully
into the factors likely to govern a disembarkation in force in face of
an enemy who was fully prepared, were unanimous in viewing such an
operation as a somewhat desperate enterprise. There was no modern
precedent for an undertaking of the kind. One dreaded some grave
disaster, feared that the troops might entirely fail to gain a footing
on shore, and pictured them as driven off after suffering overwhelming
losses. The message announcing that a large part of the army was
safely disembarked came as an immense relief. Although disappointed at
learning that only a portion of the troops had been put ashore at
Anzac on the outside of the Peninsula, which, I had presumed, would be
the point selected for the main attack, I felt decidedly optimistic
for the moment. What had appeared to be the greatest obstacle to
success had been overcome, for a landing had been effected in spite of
all that the enemy could do to hinder it. As mentioned in the previous
chapter, I left London immediately afterwards, and it was a bitter
disappointment to hear the truth a few days later, to realize that my
first appreciation had been incorrect, and to learn that gaining a
footing on shore did not connote an immediate advance into the
interior. It provides a good example of how difficult it is to
forecast results in war.

By fairly early in May, there already seemed to be little prospect of
the Expeditionary Force achieving its object unless very strong
reinforcements in men and munitions were sent out to the Aegean. But
there was shortage of both men and munitions, and men and munitions
alike were needed elsewhere. The second Battle of Ypres, coupled with
the miscarriage of the Franco-British offensive about La Bassée,
indicated that the enemy was formidable on the Western Front.
Although there was every prospect of an improvement before long in
respect to munitions output, the shell shortage was at the moment
almost at its worst. We knew at the War Office that the Russians were
in grave straits in respect to weapons and ammunition, and one could
not tell whether the German Great General Staff, probably quite as
well aware of this as we were, would assume the offensive in the
Eastern theatre of war, or would transfer great bodies of troops from
East to West to make some determined effort against the French and
ourselves. The change of Government which introduced Mr. Asquith's
Coalition Cabinet, moreover, came about at this time, and political
palaver seriously delayed decisions.

It was, no doubt, unfortunate, from the point of view of the
Dardanelles campaign, that there was so much hesitation about sending
out the very substantial reinforcements which only actually reached
Sir I. Hamilton at the end of July and during the early days of
August. But it by no means necessarily follows that if they had
reached their destination, say, six weeks sooner, the Straits would
have been won. Much stress has always been laid upon the torpor that
descended upon Suvla during the very critical hours which followed the
successful disembarkation of the new force in that region; but those
inexperienced troops and their leaders must have acted with
extraordinary resolution and energy to have appreciably changed the
fortunes of General Birdwood's great offensive against Sari Bair.
Information from the Turkish side does not suggest that Liman von
Sanders gained any great accessions of strength during July and early
August. It was the ample warning which the enemy received of what was
impending before ever a soldier was landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula
that, far more than anything which occurred subsequently, rendered the
Dardanelles operations abortive.

The Dardanelles Committee came into being in June. This body included
most of the more prominent figures in the Coalition Cabinet.
Attending its deliberations from time to time one acquired the
impression that an undue amount of attention was being given in
Government circles to the Aegean theatre of war, an attention out of
all proportion either to its importance or to our prospects of
success; for the talk ranged over the whole wide world at times and
the Committee dealt with a good deal besides the Dardanelles. Its
members always took the utmost interest in the events in the Gallipoli
Peninsula, and, up to the date when the August offensive in that
region definitely failed, they were mostly in sanguine mood. One or
two optimistic statements made in public at that time were indeed
quite inappropriate and had much better been left unspoken. The
amateur strategist, that inexhaustible source of original and
unprofitable proposals, was by no means inarticulate at these
confabulations in 10 Downing Street. He would pick up Sir I.
Hamilton's Army and would deposit it in some new locality, just as one
might pick up one's pen-wiper and shift it from one side of the
blotting-pad to the other. That is how some people who are simply
bursting with intelligence, people who will produce whole newspaper
columns of what to the uninformed reads like sensible matter, love to
make war. In a way, the U-boats in the Aegean served as a blessing in
disguise; they helped to squash many hare-brained schemes inchoated
around Whitehall, and to consign them to oblivion before they became
really dangerous.

After the failure of the August offensive in the Gallipoli Peninsula,
the members of the Dardanelles Committee became extremely anxious, and
with good reason. They would come round to my room and discuss the
situation individually, and I am afraid they seldom found me in
optimistic vein. I had run over to Ulster in April 1914 on the
occasion of certain stirring events taking place, which brought
General Hubert Gough and his cavalry brigade into some public
prominence, and which robbed the War Office of the services of Colonel
Seely, Sir J. French and Sir Spencer Ewart. I had been allowed behind
the scenes in the north of Ireland as a sympathiser, had visited
Omagh, Enniskillen, historic Derry and other places, had noted the
grim determination of the loyalists, and had been deeply impressed by
the efficiency and the foresight of the inner organization. Necessity
makes strange bedfellows. It was almost startling to find within
fifteen months of that experience Sir E. Carson arriving in my
apartment together with Mr. Churchill, their relations verging on the
mutually affectionate, eager to discuss as colleagues the very
unpromising position of affairs on the shores of the Thracian
Chersonese.

From a very early stage in the Dardanelles venture there had been a
feeling in some quarters within the War Office that we ought to cut
our losses and clear out of the Gallipoli Peninsula, and that sending
out reinforcements to the Aegean which could ill be spared from other
scenes of warlike activity looked uncommonly like throwing good money
after bad. My friends at G.H.Q., from whom I used to hear frequently,
and who would look in when over on duty or on short leave, were
strongly of this opinion; but they naturally were somewhat biassed.
One took a long time to reconcile oneself to this idea, even when no
hope of real success remained. It was not until September indeed, and
after the decision had been come to to send out no more fresh troops
to Sir I. Hamilton, that I personally came to the conclusion that no
other course was open than to have done with the business and to come
away out of that with the least possible delay. Sir Ian had sent home
a trusted staff-officer, Major (now Major-General) the Hon. Guy
Dawnay, to report and to try to secure help. Dawnay fought his corner
resolutely and was loyalty itself to his chief, but the information
that he had to give and his appreciation of the situation as it stood
were the reverse of encouraging. By the middle of October, when the
Salonika affair had begun to create fresh demands on our limited
resources and when Sir C. Monro was sent out to take up command of the
Mediterranean [p.103] Expeditionary Force, any doubts which remained on the
subject had been dispelled, and I was glad to gather from the new
chief's attitude when he left that, in so far as he understood the
situation before satisfying himself of the various factors on the
spot, he leant towards complete and prompt evacuation.

If a withdrawal was to be effected, it was manifest that this ought to
be carried out as soon as possible in view of the virtual certainty of
bad weather during the winter months. But the War Council, which had
superseded the Dardanelles Committee, unfortunately appeared to halt
helplessly between two opinions. Even Sir C. Monro's uncompromising
recommendation failed to decide its members. Lord Kitchener was loth
to agree to the step, as he feared the effect which a British retreat
might exert in Egypt and elsewhere in the East. As will be remembered
he proceeded to the Aegean himself at the beginning of November to
take stock, but he soon decided for evacuation after examining the
conditions on the spot. The whole question remained in abeyance for
some three weeks.

My own experiences of what followed were so singular that a careful
note of dates and details was made at the time, because one realized
even then that incidents of the kind require to be made known. They
may serve as a warning. On the 23rd of November my chief, Sir A.
Murray, summoned me, after a meeting of the War Council, to say that
that body wished me to repair straightway to Paris and to make General
Gallieni, the War Minister, acquainted with a decision which they had
just arrived at--viz., that the Gallipoli Peninsula was to be
abandoned without further ado. The full Cabinet would meet on the
morrow (the 24th) to endorse the decision. That afternoon Mr. Asquith,
who was acting as Secretary of State for War in the absence of Lord
Kitchener, sent for me and repeated these instructions.

I left by the morning boat-train next day, having wired to our
Military Attaché to arrange, if possible, an interview with General
Gallieni that evening; and he met me at the Gare du Nord, bearer of an
invitation to dinner from the War Minister, and of a telegram from
General Murray intimating that the Cabinet, having met as arranged,
had been unable to come to a decision but were going to have another
try on the morrow. Here was a contingency that was not covered by
instructions and for which one was not prepared, but I decided to tell
General Gallieni exactly how matters stood. (Adroitly drawn out for my
benefit by his personal staff during dinner, the great soldier told us
that stirring tale of how, as Governor of Paris, he despatched its
garrison in buses and taxis and any vehicles that he could lay hands
upon, to buttress the army which, under Maunoury's stalwart
leadership, was to fall upon Von Kluck's flank, and was to usher in
the victory of the Marne.)

A fresh wire came to hand from the War Office on the following
afternoon, announcing that the Cabinet had again been unable to clinch
the business, but contemplated a further séance two days later, the
27th. On the afternoon of the 27th, however, a message arrived from
General Murray, to say that our rulers had yet again failed to make up
their minds, and that the best thing I could do under the
circumstances was to return to the War Office. General Gallieni, when
the position of affairs was explained to him, was most sympathetic,
quoted somebody's dictum that "la politique n'a pas d'entrailles," and
hinted that he did not always find it quite plain sailing with his own
gang. Still, there it was. The Twenty-Three had thrown the War Council
over (it was then composed of Messrs. Asquith, Bonar Law, Lloyd
George, and Balfour, and Sir E. Grey, assisted by the First Sea Lord
and the C.I.G.S.) and they were leaving our army marooned on the
Gallipoli Peninsula, with the winter approaching apace, in a position
growing more and more precarious owing to Serbia's collapse and to
Bulgaria's accession to the enemy ranks having freed the great artery
of communications connecting Germany with the Golden Horn.

Life in the War Office during the Great War, even during those early
anxious days of 1914 and 1915, had its lighter side. The astonishing
cheeriness of the British soldier under the most trying circumstances
has become proverbial; but his officer shares this priceless
characteristic with him and displays it even amid the deadening
surroundings of the big building in Whitehall. The best laugh that we
enjoyed during that strenuous period was on the morning when news came
that Anzac and Suvla had been evacuated at the cost of only some
half-dozen casualties and of the abandonment of a very few worn-out
guns. Then it was that an official, who was very much behind the
scenes, extracted a document on the familiar grey-green paper from his
safe and read it out with appropriate "business" to a joyous party.

This State paper, a model of incisive diction and of moving prose,
conceived in the best Oxford manner, drew a terrible picture of what
might occur in withdrawing troops from a foreshore in presence of a
ferocious foe. Its polished periods portrayed a scene of horror and
despair, of a bullet-swept beach, of drowning soldiers and of
shattered boats. It quoted the case of some similar military
operation, where warriors who had gained a footing on a hostile
coast-line had been obliged to remove themselves in haste and had had
the very father and mother of a time during the process--it was
Marathon or Syracuse or some such contemporary martial event, if I
remember aright. This masterly production, there is reason to believe,
had not been without its influence when the question of abandoning the
Gallipoli Peninsula was under consideration of those responsible. Well
did Mr. Lloyd George say in the House of Commons many months later in
the course of his first speech after becoming Prime Minister: "You
cannot run a war with a Sanhedrin."

When the War Council, or the Cabinet, or whatever set of men in
authority it was who at last got something settled, made up their
minds that a withdrawal of sorts was really to take place, they in a
measure reversed the decision which I had been charged to convey to
the French Government a fortnight before. The orders sent out to Sir
C. Monro only directed an evacuation of Anzac and Suvla to take place.
This, it may be observed, seems to some extent to have been the fault
of the sailor-men. They butted in, wanting to hang on to Helles on
watching-the-Straits grounds; they were apparently ready to impose
upon our naval forces in the Aegean the very grave responsibility of
mothering a small army, which was blockaded and dominated on the land
side, as it clung to the inhospitable, storm-driven toe of the
Gallipoli Peninsula in midwinter.

Sir W. Robertson arrived a few days later to take up the appointment
of C.I.G.S., which, I knew, meant the splitting up of my Directorate.
Being aware of his views beforehand as we had often talked it over, I
had a paper ready drafted for his approval urging an immediate total
evacuation of Turkish soil in this region. This he at once submitted
to the War Council, and within two or three days orders were
telegraphed out to the Aegean to the effect that Helles was to be
abandoned. After remaining a few days longer at the War Office as
Director of Military Intelligence, I was sent by the C.I.G.S. on a
special mission to Russia, and my direct connection with the General
Staff came to an end but for a short period in the summer of 1917. It
is a satisfaction to remember that the last question of importance in
which I was concerned before leaving Whitehall for the East was in
lending a hand towards getting our troops out of the impossible
position they were in at the mouth of the Dardanelles.



CHAPTER VI

SOME EXPERIENCES IN THE WAR OFFICE

     A reversion to earlier dates -- The statisticians in the winter
     of 1914-15 -- The efforts to prove that German man-power would
     shortly give out -- Lack of the necessary premises upon which to
     found such calculations -- Views on the maritime blockade -- The
     projects for operations against the Belgian coast district in the
     winter of 1914-15 -- Nature of my staff -- The "dug-outs" -- The
     services of one of them, "Z" -- His care of me in foreign parts
     -- His activities in other Departments of State -- An alarming
     discovery -- How "Z" grappled with a threatening situation -- He
     hears about the Admiralty working on the Tanks -- The
     cold-shouldering of Colonel Swinton when he raised this question
     at the War Office in January 1915 -- Lord Fisher proposes to
     construct large numbers of motor-lighters, and I am told off to
     go into the matter with him -- The Baltic project -- The way it
     was approached -- Meetings with Lord Fisher -- The "beetles" --
     Visits from the First Sea Lord -- The question of secrecy in
     connection with war operations -- A parable -- The land service
     behind the sea service in this matter -- Interviews with Mr.
     Asquith -- His ways on such occasions.


These random jottings scarcely lend themselves to the scrupulous
preservation of a chronological continuity. Many other matters
meriting some mention as affecting the War Office had claimed one's
attention before the Dardanelles campaign finally fizzled out early in
January 1916. The General Staff had to some extent been concerned in
the solutions arrived at by the Entente during the year 1915 of those
acutely complex problems which kept arising in the Balkans. Then,
again, quite a number of "side-shows" had been embarked on at various
dates since the outbreak of the conflict, of which some had been
carried through to a successful conclusion to the advantage of the
cause, while the course of others had been of a decidedly chequered
character. The munitions question, furthermore, which had for a time
caused most serious difficulty but which had been disposed of in great
measure by the end of 1915 owing to the foresight and the labours of
Lord Kitchener and of the Master-General of the Ordnance's Department,
was necessarily one in which the Military Operations Directorate was
deeply interested. These and a number of other matters will be dealt
with in special chapters, but some more or less personal experiences
in and around Whitehall may appropriately be placed on record here.

Already, early in the winter of 1914-15, the statisticians were busily
at work. They had found a bone and they were gnawing at it to their
heart's content. Individuals of indisputable capacity and of infinite
application set themselves to work to calculate how soon Boche
man-power would be exhausted. Lord Haldane hurled himself into the
breach with a zest that could hardly have been exceeded had he been
contriving a totally new Territorial Army organization. Professor Oman
abandoned Wellington somewhere amidst the declivities of the sierras
without one qualm, and immersed himself in computations warranted to
make the plain man's hair stand on end. The enthusiasts who
voluntarily undertook this onerous task arrived at results of the most
encouraging kind, for one learnt that the Hun as a warrior would
within quite a short space of time be a phantom of the past, that
adult males within the Kaiser's dominions would speedily comprise only
the very aged, the mentally afflicted or the maimed wreckage from the
battlefields of France and Poland, and that if this attractive
Sovereign proposed to continue hostilities he must ere long, as
Lincoln said of Jefferson Davis, "rob the cradle and the grave." Even
Lord Kitchener displayed some interest in these mathematical
exercises, and was not wholly unimpressed when figures established the
gratifying fact that the German legions were a vanishing proposition.
I was always in this matter graded in the "doubting Thomas" class.

The question seemed to base itself upon what premises you thought fit
to start from. You could no doubt calculate with some certainty upon
the total number of Teuton males of fighting age being somewhere about
fifteen millions in August 1914, upon 700,000, or so, youths annually
reaching the age of eighteen, and upon Germany being obliged to have
under arms continually some five million soldiers. After that you were
handling rather indeterminate factors. You might put down
indispensables in civil life at half a million or at four millions
just as you liked; but it made the difference of three and a half
millions in your pool to start with, according to which estimate you
preferred. After that you had to cut out the unfit--another
problematical figure. Finally came the question of casualties based on
suspicious enemy statistics, and the perplexities involved in the
number of wounded who would, and who would not, be able to return to
the ranks. The only conclusion that one seemed to be justified in
arriving at was that the wastage was in excess of the intake of
youngsters, that the outflow was greater than the inflow, and that if
the war went on long enough German man-power would give out. When that
happy consummation would be arrived at, it was in the winter of
1914-15 impossible to say and fruitless to take a shot at.

The Director of Military Operations received copies of most Foreign
Office telegrams as a matter of course, and during the early months of
the war many of these documents as they came to hand were found to be
concerned with that very ticklish question, the maritime blockade. The
attitude taken up by those responsible in this country regarding this
matter has been severely criticized in many quarters, certain organs
of the Press were loud in their condemnation of our kid-glove methods
in those days, and the Sister Service seemed to be in discontented
mood. But there was a good deal to be said on the other side. Lack of
familiarity with international law, with precedents, and with the
tenour and result of the discussions which had at various times taken
place with foreign countries over the manners and customs of naval
blockade, made any conclusions which I might arrive at over so complex
a problem of little profit. But it always did seem to me that the
policy actually adopted was in the main the right one, and that to
have bowed before advocates of more drastic measures might well have
landed us in a most horrible mess. You can play tricks with neutrals
whose fighting potentialities are restricted, which you had better not
try on with non-belligerents who may be able to make things hot for
you. The progress of the war in the early months was not so wholly
reassuring as to justify hazarding fresh complications.

In his book, "_1914_," Lord French has dealt at some length with an
operations question which was much in debate during the winter of
1914-15. He and Mr. Churchill were at this time bent on joint naval
and military undertakings designed to recover possession of part, or
of the whole, of the Belgian coast-line--in itself a most desirable
objective. Although I did not see most of the communications which
passed between the French Government and ours on the subject, nor
those which passed between Lord Kitchener and the Commander-in-Chief
of the B.E.F., I gathered the nature of what was afoot from Sir J.
Wolfe Murray and Fitzgerald, as also from G.H.Q. in France, and
examined the problem which was involved with the aid of large-scale
maps and charts and such other information as was available. The
experts of St. Omer did not appear to accept the scheme with
absolutely whole-hearted concurrence. By some of them--it may have
been a mistaken impression on my part--the visits of the First Lord of
the Admiralty to their Chief hardly seemed to be welcomed with the
enthusiasm that might have been expected. Whisperings from across the
Channel perhaps made one more critical than one ought to have been,
but, be that as it may, the project hardly struck one as an especially
inviting method of employing force at that particular juncture. We
were deplorably short of heavy howitzers, and we were already feeling
the lack of artillery ammunition of all sorts. Although some
reinforcements--the Twenty-Seventh and Twenty-Eighth Divisions--were
pretty well ready to take the field, no really substantial
augmentation of our fighting forces on the Western Front was to be
anticipated for some months. The end was attractive enough, but the
means appeared to be lacking.

In long-range--or, for the matter of that, short-range--bombardments
of the Flanders littoral by warships I placed no trust. Mr.
Churchill's "we could give you 100 or 200 guns from the sea in
absolutely devastating support" of the 22nd of November to Sir J.
French would not have excited me in the very least. In his book, the
Field-Marshal ascribes the final decision of our Government to refuse
sanction to a plan of operations which they had approved of at the
first blush, partly to French objections and partly to the sudden
fancy taken by the War Council for offensive endeavour in far-distant
fields. That may be the correct explanation; but it is also possible
that after careful consideration of the subject Lord Kitchener
perceived the tactical and strategical weakness of the plan in itself.

My staff was from the outset a fairly substantial one--much the
largest of that in any War Office Directorate--and, although I am no
great believer in a multitudinous personnel swarming in a public
office, it somehow grew. It was composed partly of officers and others
whom I found on arrival, partly of new hands brought in automatically
on mobilization like myself to fill the places of picked men who had
been spirited away with the Expeditionary Force, and partly of
individuals acquired later on as other regular occupants were received
up into the framework of the growing fighting forces of the country. A
proportion of the new-comers were dug-outs, and it may not be out of
place to say a word concerning this particular class of officer as
introduced into the War Office, of whom I formed one myself.
Instigated thereunto by that gushing fountain of unimpeachable
information, the Press, the public were during the early part of the
war disposed to attribute all high crimes and misdemeanours, of which
the central administration of the nation's military forces was
pronounced to have been guilty, to the "dug-out." That the personnel
of the War Office was always set out in detail at the beginning of the
_Monthly Army List_, the omniscient Fourth Estate was naturally aware;
but the management of a newspaper could hardly be expected to purchase
a copy (it was not made confidential for a year). Nor could a
journalistic staff condescend to study this work of reference at some
library or club. Under the circumstances, and having heard that such
people as "dug-outs" actually existed, the Press as a matter of course
assumed that within the portals in Whitehall Lord Kitchener was
struggling in vain against the ineptitude and reactionary tendencies
of a set of prehistoric creatures who constituted the whole of his
staff. The fact, however, was that all the higher appointments (with
scarcely an exception other than that of myself) were occupied by
soldiers who had been on the active list at the time of mobilization,
and the great majority of whom simply remained at their posts after
war was declared.

Nor were "dug-outs," whether inside or outside of the War Office, by
necessity and in obedience to some inviolable rule individuals
languishing in the last stage of mental and bodily decay. Some of them
were held to be not too effete to bear their burden even amid the
stress and turmoil of the battlefield. One, after serving with
conspicuous distinction in several theatres of war, finished up as
Chief of the General Staff and right-hand man to Sir Douglas Haig in
1918. Those members of the band who were at my beck and call within
the War Office generally contrived to grapple effectually with
whatever they undertook, and amongst them certainly not the least
competent and interesting was a Rip Van Winkle, whom we will call
"Z"--for short.

A subaltern at the start, "Z" was fitted out with all the virtues of
the typical subaltern, but was furnished in addition with certain
virtues that the typical subaltern does not necessarily possess. It
could not be said of him that

                    deep on his brow engraven
               Deliberation sat and sovereign care,

but he treated Cabinet Ministers with an engaging blend of firmness
and familiarity, and he could, when occasion called for it, keep
Royalty in its place. Once when he thought fit to pay a visit on duty
to Paris and the front, he took me with him, explaining that unless he
had a general officer in his train there might be difficulties as to
his being accompanied by his soldier servant. Generals and colonels
and people of that kind doing duty at the War Office did not then have
soldier servants--but "Z" did. It is, however, bare justice to him to
acknowledge that, after I had served his purpose and when he came to
send me back to England from Boulogne before he resumed his inspection
of troops and trenches, he was grandmotherly in his solicitude that I
should meet with no misadventure. "Have you got your yellow form all
right, sir? You'd better look. No, no; that's not it, that's another
thing altogether. Surely you haven't lost it already! Ah, that's it.
Now, do put it in your right-hand breast pocket, where you won't get
it messed up with your pocket-handkerchief, sir, and remember where it
is." It reminded one of being sent off as a small boy to school.

It was his practice to make a round of the different Public
Departments of a forenoon, and to draw the attention of those
concerned in each of them to any matters that appeared to him to call
for comment. The Admiralty and the Foreign Office naturally engaged
his attention more than others, but he was a familiar figure in them
all. His activities were so varied indeed that they almost might have
been summed up as universal, which being the case, it is not perhaps
altogether to be wondered at that he did occasionally make a mistake.
For instance:

He burst tumultuously into my room one morning flourishing a paper.
"Have you seen this, sir?" As a matter of fact I had seen it; but as
the document had conveyed no meaning to my mind, dissembled. Its
purport was that 580 tons of a substance of which I had never heard
before, and of which I have forgotten the name, had been landed
somewhere or other in Scandinavia. "But do you know what it is, sir?
It's the most appalling poison! It's the concoction that the South Sea
Islanders smear their bows and arrows with--cyanide and prussic acid
are soothing-syrup compared to it. Of course it's for those filthy
Boches. Five hundred and eighty tons of it! There won't be a bullet or
a zeppelin or a shell or a bayonet or a dart or a strand of
barbed-wire that won't be reeking with the stuff." I was aghast.
"Shall I go and see the Director-General, A.M.S., about it, sir?"

"Yes, do, by all means. The very thing."

He came back presently. "I've seen the D.-G., sir, and he's
frightfully excited. He's got hold of all his deputies and hangers-on,
and the whole gang of them are talking as if they were wound up. One
of them says he thinks he has heard of an antidote, but of course he
knows nothing whatever about it really, and is only talking through
his hat, I tell you what, sir, we ought to lend them a hand in this
business. I know Professor Stingo; he's miles and away the biggest man
on smells and that sort of thing in London, if not in Europe. So, if
you'll let me, I'll charter a taxi and be off and hunt him up, and get
him to work. If the thing can be done, sir, he's the lad for the job.
May I go, sir?"

"Very well, do as you propose, and let me know the result."

He turned up again in the afternoon. "I've seen old man Stingo, sir,
and he's for it all right. He's going to collect a lot more sportsmen
of the same kidney, and they're going to have the time of their lives,
and to make a regular night of it. You see, sir, I pointed out to him
that this was a matter of the utmost urgency--not merely a question of
finding an antidote, but also of distributing it methodically and
broadcast. After it's been invented or made or procured, or whatever's
got to be done, some comedian in the Quartermaster-General's show will
insist on the result being packed up in receptacles warranted
rot-proof against everything that the mind of man can conceive till
the Day of Judgment--you know the absurd way those sort of people go
on, sir--and all that will take ages, æons." He really thought of
everything. "And there'll have to be books of instructions and
classes, and the Lord knows what besides! After that the stuff'll have
to be carted off to France and the Dardanelles, and maybe to Archangel
and Mesopotamia; so Stingo and Co. are going to be up all night, and
mean to arrive at some result or to perish in the attempt. And now,
sir, what have you done about it at the Foreign Office?"

This was disconcerting, seeing that I had done nothing.

"Oh, but, sir," sounding that note of submissive expostulation which
the tactful staff-officer contrives to introduce when he feels himself
obliged reluctantly to express disapproval of superior military
authority, "oughtn't we to do something? How would it be if I were to
go down and see Grey, or one of them, and to talk to him like a
father?"

"Well, perhaps it might be advisable to make a guarded suggestion to
them on the subject. Give my compliments to ----" But he was gone.

He returned in about half an hour. "I've been down to the Foreign
Office, sir, and as you might have expected, they haven't done a
blooming thing. What those 'dips' think they're paid for always beats
me! However, I've got them to promise to cable out to their
ambassadors and consuls and bottle-washers in Scandinavia to keep
their wits about them. I offered to draft the wires for them; but they
seemed to think that they could do it themselves, and I daresay
they'll manage all right now that I've told them exactly what they
are to say. I really do not know that we can do anything more about it
this evening," he added doubtfully, and with a worried, far-away look
on his face. Good heavens, he was never going to think of something
else! He took himself off, however, still evidently dissatisfied and
communing with himself.

Next forenoon "Z" came into my room in a hurry. "I've been hearing
about the caterpillars, sir," he exclaimed joyously.

"The caterpillars?"

"Oh, not crawly things like one finds in one's salad, sir. The ones
the Admiralty are making[5]--armoured motor contrivances, with great
big feet that will go across country and jump canals, and go bang
through Boche trenches and barbed wire as if they weren't there.
They'll be perfectly splendid--full of platoons and bombs and machine
guns, and all the rest of it. I _will_ say this for Winston and those
mariners across Whitehall, when they get an idea they carry it out and
do not bother whether the thing'll be any use or can be made at
all--care no more for the Treasury than if it was so much dirt, and
quite right too! Just what it is. But when they've got their
caterpillars made, they won't know what to do with them any more than
the Babes in the Wood. Then we'll collar them; but in the meantime I
might be able to give them some hints, so, if you'll let me, I'll go
across and----"

                   [Footnote 5: The first I heard of the Tanks, which
                   made so dramatic a debut near the Somme a year and
                   a half later.]

"Yes, yes; but just one moment. How about the poison?"

"The poison, sir? What poi--oh, that stuff. Didn't I tell you, sir? It
isn't poison at all. You see, sir, it's this way. There are two forms
of it. There's the white form, and that _is_ poison, shocking poison;
it's what the Fijians use when they want to pacify a busybody like
Captain Cook who comes butting in where he isn't wanted. As a matter
of fact there's uncommon little of it--they don't get a hundredweight
in a generation. Then there's the red form, and that's what Johnnies
have been dumping down 580 tons of at What's-its-name. It's quite
innocuous, and is used for commercial purposes--tanning leather, or
making spills, or something of that kind. Now may I go to the Ad----"

"But have you told all this to the Director-General?"

"Oh yes, sir. I told him first thing this morning."

"Did he pass no remarks as to your having started him off after this
absurd hare of yours?"

"Well, you see, sir, he's an uncommonly busy man, and I didn't feel
justified in wasting his time. So, after relieving his mind, I cleared
out at once."

"And your professors?"

"Oh, those professor-men--it would never do to tell them, sir. They'd
be perfectly miserable if they were deprived of the excitement of
muddling about with their crucibles and blow-pipes and retorts and
things. It would be cruelty to animals to enlighten them--it would
indeed, sir; and I know that you would not wish me to do anything to
discourage scientific investigation. Now, sir, may I go over to the
Admiralty?" And off he went, with instructions to find out all that he
could about these contrivances that he had heard about, and to do what
he could to promote their production. A treasure: unconventional,
resourceful, exceptionally well informed, determined; the man to get a
thing done that one wanted done--even if he did at times get a thing
done that one didn't particularly want done--and in some respects
quite the best intelligence officer I have come across in a fairly
wide experience. To-day "Z" commands the applause of listening senates
in the purlieus of St. Stephen's and has given up to party what was
meant for mankind; but although he is not Prime Minister yet, nor even
a Secretary of State, that will come in due course.

It was in May 1915 that "Z" told me that the Admiralty were at work on
some sort of land-ship, and set about finding out what was being
done; he had previously been in communication with Colonel E. D.
Swinton over at the front. Only in the latter part of 1919, when the
question of claims in connection with the invention and the
development of Tanks had been investigated by a Royal Commission, did
I learn to my astonishment that this matter had been brought by
Swinton before the War Office so early as the beginning of January
1915, and that his projects had then been "turned down" by a technical
branch to which he had, unfortunately, referred them. It does not seem
possible that the technical branch can have brought the question to
the notice of the General Staff, or I must have heard of it. The value
of some contrivance such as he was confident could be constructed was
from the tactical point of view incontestable, and had been
incontestable ever since trench warfare became the order of the day on
the Western Front in the late autumn of 1914. But the idea of the
land-ship appeared to be an idle dream, and there was perhaps some
excuse for the General Staff in its not of its own accord pressing
upon the technical people that something of the sort must be produced
somehow. Knowledge that a thoroughly practical man possessed of
engineering knowledge and distinguished for his prescience like
Swinton was convinced that the thing was feasible, was just what was
required to set the General Staff in motion.

Thanks to Swinton, and also to "Z," the General Staff did get into
touch with the Admiralty in May, and then found that a good deal had
already been done, owing to Mr. Churchill's imagination and foresight
and to the energy and ingenuity with which the land-ship idea had been
taken up at his instigation. But the War Office came badly out of the
business, and the severe criticisms to which it has been exposed in
connection with the subject are better deserved than a good many of
the criticisms of which it has been the victim. The blunder was not
perhaps so much the fault of individuals as of the system. The
technical branches had not been put in their place before the war,
they did not understand their position and did not realize that on
broad questions of policy they were subject to the General Staff. It
is worthy of note, incidentally, that Swinton never seems to have got
much satisfaction with G.H.Q. in France until he brought his ideas
direct before the General Staff out there on the 1st of June by
submitting a memorandum to the Commander-in-Chief. It is to be hoped
that the subserviency of all other branches to the General Staff in
connection with matters of principle has been established once for all
by this time; it was, I think, pretty well established by Sir W.
Robertson when he became C.I.G.S. Should there ever be any doubt about
the matter--well, remember the start of the Tanks!

One morning in January or February 1915, Lord K. sent for me to his
room. It appeared that Lord Fisher had in mind a project of
constructing a flotilla of lighters of special type, to be driven by
motor power and designed for the express purpose of landing large
bodies of troops rapidly on an enemy's coast. The First Sea Lord was
anxious to discuss details with somebody from our side of Whitehall,
and the Chief wished me to take the thing up, the whole business being
of a most secret character. Lord Fisher, I gathered, contemplated
descents upon German shores; Lord K. did not appear to take these very
seriously, but he did foresee that a flotilla of the nature proposed
might prove extremely useful in connection with possible future
operations on the Flanders littoral. In any case, seeing that the
Admiralty were prepared to undertake a construction job of this kind
more or less in the interests of us soldiers, we ought to give the
plan every encouragement.

Vague suggestions had reached me from across the road shortly
before--I do not recollect exactly how they came to hand--to the
effect that one ought to examine into the possibilities offered by
military operations based on the German Baltic coast and against the
Frisian Islands. Attacks upon these islands presented concrete
problems; the question in their case had been already gone into
carefully by other hands before the war, and schemes of this
particular kind had not been found to offer much attraction when their
details came to be considered. As for the Baltic coast, one was given
nothing whatever to go upon--was groping in the dark. You wondered how
it was proposed to obtain command of these protected waters, bearing
in mind the nature of the approaches through defiles which happened to
be in the main in neutral hands, but you realized that this was a
naval question and therefore somebody else's job. Still, even given
this command, what then? Investigations of the subject, based upon
uncertain premises, did not lead to the conclusion that, beyond
"containing" hostile forces which otherwise might be available for
warfare in some other quarter, a landing in large force on these
shores was likely to prove an effective operation of war; and it was
bound to be an extremely hazardous one.

It has since transpired from Lord Fisher's volcanic _Memories_ that
the First Sea Lord had, with his "own hands alone to preserve secret
all arrangements," prepared plans for depositing three "great armies"
at different places in the Baltic, "two of them being feints that
could be turned into reality." How the First Sea Lord could draw up
plans of this kind that were capable of being put into effective
execution without some military assistance I do not pretend to
understand. A venture such as this does not begin and end with dumping
down any sort of army you like at a spot on the enemy's shores where
it happens to be practicable to disembark troops rapidly. Once landed,
the army still has to go ahead and do its business, whatever this is,
as a military undertaking, and it stands in need of some definite and
practicable objective. The numbers of which it is to consist and its
detailed organization have to be worked out in advance, with a clear
idea of what service it is intended to perform and of the strength of
the enemy forces which it is likely to encounter while carrying out
its purpose. It has to be fed and has to be supplied with war material
after it has been deposited on _terra firma_. Is it to take its
transport with it, or will it pick this up on arrival? Even the
constitution of the armada which is to convey it to its point of
disembarkation by no means represents a purely naval problem. Until
the sailors know what the composition of the military force in respect
to men, animals, vehicles, etc., is to be, they cannot calculate what
tonnage will be required, or decide how that tonnage is to be allotted
for transporting the troops oversea. For a project of this kind to be
worked out solely by naval experts would be no less ridiculous than
for it to be worked out solely by military experts. Secrecy in a
situation of this kind is no doubt imperative, but you must trust
somebody or you will head straight for catastrophe.

When I went over by appointment to see Lord Fisher, he got to work at
once in that inimitable way of his. He explained that what he had in
view was to place sufficient motor-lighters at Lord Kitchener's
disposal, each carrying about 500 men, to land 50,000 troops on a
beach at one time. He insisted upon the most absolute secrecy. What he
wanted me to do was to discuss the construction of the lighters in
detail with the admiral who had the job in charge, so as to ensure
that their design would fall in with purely military requirements. I
had, some sixteen years before when Lord Fisher had been
Commander-in-Chief on the Mediterranean station, enjoyed a
confidential discussion with him in Malta concerning certain
strategical questions in that part of the world, and had been amazed
at the alertness of his brain, his originality of thought, his
intoxicating enthusiasm, and his relentless driving power. Now, in
1915, he seemed to be even younger than he had seemed then. He covered
the ground at such a pace that I was speedily toiling breathless and
dishevelled far in rear. It is all very well to carry off _Memories_
into a quiet corner and to try to assimilate limited portions of that
work at a time, deliberately and in solitude. But to have a
hotch-potch of Shakespeare, internal combustion engines, chemical
devices for smoke screens, principles of the utilization of sea power
in war, Holy Writ, and details of ship construction dolloped out on
one's plate, and to have to bolt it then and there, imposes a strain
on the interior economy that is greater than this will stand. After an
interview with the First Sea Lord you suffered from that giddy,
bewildered, exhausted sort of feeling that no doubt has you in thrall
when you have been run over by a motor bus without suffering actual
physical injury.

The main point that I insisted upon when in due course discussing the
construction details of the motor-lighters with the admiral who was
supervising the work, was that they should be so designed as to let
the troops aboard of them rush out quickly as soon as the prow should
touch the shore. The vessels were put together rapidly, and one or two
of those first completed were experimented with in the Solent towards
the end of April, when they were found quite satisfactory. Although
they were never turned to account for the purpose which Lord Fisher
had had in mind when the decision was taken to build them, a number of
these mobile barges proved extremely useful to our troops in the later
stages of the Dardanelles campaign, notably on the occasion of the
landing at Suvla and while the final evacuations were being carried
out. Indeed, but for the "beetles" (as the soldiers christened these
new-fangled craft), our army would never have got away from the
Gallipoli Peninsula with such small loss of stores and impedimenta as
it did, and the last troops told off to leave Helles on the stormy
night of the 8th-9th of January 1916 might have been unable to embark
and might have met with a deplorable disaster.

After that first meeting with him at the Admiralty, I frequently saw
Lord Fisher, and he kept me acquainted with his views on many points,
notably on what was involved in the threat of the U-boats after Sir I.
Hamilton had landed his troops in the Gallipoli Peninsula. On more
than one occasion he honoured me with a surprise visit in my office.
These interviews in my sanctum were of quite a dramatic,
Harrison-Ainsworth, Gunpowder-Treason, Man-in-the-Iron-Mask character.
He gave me no warning, scorning the normal procedure of induction by a
messenger. He would appear of a sudden peeping in at the door to see
if I was at home, would then thrust the door to and lock it on the
inside with a deft turn of the wrist, would screw up the lean-to
ventilator above the door in frantic haste, and would have darted over
and be sitting down beside me, talking earnestly and _ventre-à-terre_
of matters of grave moment, almost before I could rise to my feet and
conform to those deferential observances that are customary when a
junior officer has to deal with one of much higher standing. Some
subjects treated of on these occasions were of an extremely
confidential nature, and in view of the laxity of many eminent
officials and--if the truth be told--of military officers as a body,
the precautions taken by the First Sea Lord within my apartment were
perhaps not without justification.

War is too serious a business to warrant the proclamation of
prospective naval and military operations from the housetops.
Reasonable precautions must be taken. One thing one did learn during
those early months of the war, and that was that the fewer the
individuals are--no matter who they may be--who are made acquainted
with secrets the better. But this is not of such vital importance when
the secret concerns some matter of limited interest to the ordinary
person as it is when the secret happens to relate to what is
calculated to attract public attention.

Of course it was most reprehensible on the part of that expansive
youth, Geoffrey, to have acquainted Gladys--strictly between
themselves of course--that his company had been "dished out with a
brand-new, slap-up, experimental automatic rifle, that'll make Mr.
Boche sit up when we get across." Still it did no harm, because Gladys
doesn't care twopence about rifles of any kind, and had forgotten all
about it before she had swallowed the chocolate that was in her
mouth. But when Geoffrey informed Gladys a fortnight later--again
strictly between themselves--that the regiment was booked for a stunt
at Cuxhaven, it did a great deal of harm. Because, although Gladys did
not know where Cuxhaven was, she looked it up in the atlas when she
got home, and she thereupon realized, with a wriggle of gratification,
that she was "in the know," and under the circumstances she could
hardly have been expected not to tell Agatha--under pledge, needless
to say, of inviolable secrecy. Nor would you have been well advised to
have bet that Agatha would not--in confidence--mention the matter to
Genevieve, because you would have lost your money if you had. Then, it
was only to be expected that Genevieve should let the cat out of the
bag that afternoon at the meeting of Lady Blabit's Committee for the
Development of Discretion in Damsels, observing that in _such_ company
a secret was bound to be absolutely safe. However, that was how the
whole story came to be known, and Geoffrey might just as well have
done the thing handsomely, and have placarded what was contemplated in
Trafalgar Square alongside Mr. Bonar Law's frenzied incitements to buy
war bonds.

Speaking seriously, there is rather too much of the sieve about the
soldier officer when information comes to his knowledge which it is
his duty to keep to himself. He has much to learn in this respect from
his sailor brother. You won't get much to windward of the naval cadet
or the midshipman if you try to extract out of him details concerning
the vessel which has him on her books in time of war--what she is,
where she is, or how she occupies her time. These youngsters cannot
have absorbed this reticence simply automatically and as one of the
traditions of that great Silent Service, to which, more than to any
other factor, we and our Allies owe our common triumph in the Great
War. It must have been dinned into them at Osborne and Dartmouth, and
it must have been impressed upon them--forcibly as is the way amongst
those whose dwelling is in the Great Waters--day by day by their
superiors afloat. The subject used not to be mentioned at the Woolwich
Academy in the seventies. Nor was secretiveness inculcated amongst
battery subalterns a few years subsequently. One does not recollect
hearing anything about it during the Staff College course, nor call to
mind having preached the virtues of discretion in this matter to one's
juniors oneself at a later date. Here is a matter which has been
grossly neglected and which the General Staff must see to.

When Lord Kitchener was going to be away from town for two or three
days in the summer of 1915, he sometimes instructed me to be at Mr.
Asquith's beck and call during his absence in case some important
question should suddenly arise, and once or twice I was summoned to 10
Downing Street of a morning in consequence, and was ushered into the
precincts. On these occasions the Prime Minister was to be found in a
big room upstairs; and he was always walking up and down, like
Aristotle only that he had his hands in his pockets. His demeanour
would be a blend of boredom with the benign. "Whatch-think of this?"
he would demand, snatching up some paper from his desk, cramming it
into my hand, and continuing his promenade. Such observations on my
part in response to the invitation as seemed to meet the case would be
acknowledged with a grunt--dissent, concurrence, incredulity, or a
desire for further information being communicated by modulations in
the grunt. Once, when the document under survey elaborated one of Mr.
Churchill's virgin plans of revolutionizing the conduct of the war as
a whole, the Right Honourable Gentleman in an access of exuberance
became garrulous to the extent of muttering, "'Tslike a hen laying
eggs."

But, all the same, when instructions came to be given at the end of
such an interview, they invariably were lucid, concise, and very much
to the point. You knew exactly where you were. For condensing what was
needed in a case like this into a convincing form of words, for
epitomizing in a single sentence the conclusions arrived at (supposing
conclusions by any chance to have been arrived at) after prolonged
discussions by a War Council, or at a gathering of the Dardanelles
Committee, I have never come across anybody in the same street with
Mr. Asquith.



CHAPTER VII

FURTHER EXPERIENCES IN THE WAR OFFICE

     Varied nature of my responsibilities -- Inconvenience caused by a
     Heath-Caldwell being a brother-Director on the General Staff --
     An interview with Lord Methuen -- The Man of Business -- His
     methods when in charge of a Government Department -- War Office
     branches under Men of Business -- The art of advertisement --
     This not understood by War Office officials -- The paltry staff
     and accommodation at the disposal of the Director of Supplies and
     Transport, and what was accomplished -- Good work of the
     Committee of Imperial Defence in providing certain organizations
     for special purposes before the war -- The contre-espionage
     branch -- The Government's singular conduct on the occasion of
     the first enemy spy being executed at the Tower -- The cable
     censorship -- The post office censorship -- A visit from Admiral
     Bacon -- His plan of landing troops by night at Ostend -- Some
     observations on the subject -- Sir J. Wolfe Murray leaves the War
     Office -- An appreciation of his work -- The Dardanelles papers
     to be presented to Parliament referred to me -- My action in the
     matter and the appointment of the Dardanelles Committee in
     consequence -- Mr. Lloyd George, Secretary of State for War --
     His activities -- I act as D.C.I.G.S. for a month -- Sound
     organization introduced by Sir W. Robertson -- Normal
     trench-warfare casualties and battle casualties -- I learn the
     facts about the strengths of the different armies in the field --
     Troubles with the Cabinet over man-power -- Question of
     resignation of the Army Council -- The Tank Corps and Tanks --
     The War Office helps in the reorganization of the Admiralty --
     Some of the War Cabinet want to divert troops to the Isonzo --
     The folly of such a plan -- Objections to it indicated -- Arrival
     of General Pershing in London -- I form one of the party that
     proceeds to Devonport to meet Colonel House and the United States
     Commissioners -- Its adventures -- Admirals adrift -- Mr. Balfour
     meets the Commissioners at Paddington.


During those months as Director of Military Operations my
responsibilities were in reality of a most varied nature. They covered
pretty well the whole field of endeavour, from drafting documents
bearing upon operations--subjects for the edification of the very
elect--down to returning to him by King's Messenger the teeth which a
well-known staff-officer had inadvertently left behind him at his club
when returning to the front from short leave. One was for various
reasons brought into contact with numbers of public men who were quite
outside of Government circles and official institutions, and whose
acquaintance it was agreeable to make. Moreover, officers of high
standing, over from the front or holding commands at home, would look
in to pass the time of day and keep one posted with what was going on
afield. Soldiers appointed to some new billet overseas had constantly
to be fitted out with instructions, or to be provided with books,
maps, and cipher. The last that I was to see of that brilliant leader,
General Maude, was when I went down to Victoria to see him and my old
contemporary of "Shop" days, General E. A. Fanshawe, off on their
hurried journey to the Dardanelles in August 1915.

A certain amount of minor inconvenience in connection with telephones,
correspondence, visits, and so on, arose owing to General
Heath-Caldwell taking up the appointment of Director of Military
Training about six months after mobilization. That two out of the four
Directors on the General Staff within the War Office should have
practically the same name, was something of a coincidence. Lord
Methuen, who was then holding a very important appointment in
connection with the home army (with which I had nothing to do), was
ushered into my room one day. He had scarcely sat down when he began,
"Now I know how tremendously busy all you people are, and I won't keep
you one moment, but ...," and he embarked on some question in
connection with the training of the troops in the United Kingdom. I
tried to interrupt; but he checked me with a gesture, and took
complete command of the situation. "No, no. Just let me finish what I
want to say ..." and off he was again in full cry, entirely out of
control. After one or two other attempts to stop him, I had to give it
up. You can't coerce a Field-Marshal: it isn't done. At last, after
about five minutes of rapid and eager exposition of what he had come
to the War Office to discuss, he wound up with "Well, what d'you think
of that. I haven't kept you long, have I?" It was then up to me to
explain that he had attacked the wrong man, that the question he was
interested in did not concern me, and that the best thing I could do
was to conduct him forthwith to Heath-Caldwell's lair.

One saw something of the Man of Business in those days, as also later.
Next to the "Skilled Workman," the "Man of Business" is the greatest
impostor amongst the many impostors at present preying on the
community. Just as there are plenty of genuine Skilled Workmen, so
also are there numbers of Men of Business who, thanks to their
capacity and to the advantage that they have taken of experience,
constitute real assets to the nation. Latter-day events have, however,
taught us that the majority of the individuals who pose as Skilled
Workmen are in reality engaged on operations which anybody in full
power of his faculties and of the most ordinary capacity can learn to
carry on within a very few hours, if not within a very few minutes.
What occurred in Government departments during the war proved that a
very large percentage of the Men of Business, who somehow found their
way into public employ, were no great catch even if they did manage to
spend a good deal of the taxpayer's money. To draw a sharp
dividing-line between the nation's good bargains and the nation's bad
bargains in this respect would be out of the question. To try to
separate the sheep from the goats would be as invidious as it would be
vain--there were a lot of hybrids. But it was not military men within
the War Office alone who suffered considerable disillusionment on
being brought into contact with the Man of Business in the aggregate;
that was also the experience of the Civil Service in general.

The successful Man of Business has owed his triumphs to aptitude in
capturing the business of other people. Therefore when he blossoms out
as a Government official in charge of a department, he devotes his
principal energies to trying to absorb rival departments. It was a
case of fat kine endeavouring to swallow lean kine, but finding at
times that the lean kine were not so badly nourished after all--and
took a deal of swallowing. And yet successful Men of Business, when
introduced into Government departments, do have their points. One
wonders how much the income-tax payer would be saved during the next
decade or two had some really great knight of industry, content to do
his own work and not covetous of that of other people (assuming such a
combination of the paragon and the freak to exist), been placed in
charge of the Ministry of Munitions as soon as Mr. Lloyd George had,
with his defiance of Treasury convention, with his wealth of
imagination, and with his irrepressible and buoyant courage, set the
thing up on the vast foundations already laid by the War Office.
Unsuccessful Men of Business, when introduced into Government
departments, have their points too, but they are mostly bad points.

The Man of Business' procedure, when he is placed at the head of a
Government department, or of some branch of a Government department,
in time of war is well known. He makes himself master of some gigantic
building or some set of buildings. He then sets to work to people the
premises with creatures of his own. He then, with the assistance of
the superior grades amongst the creatures, becomes wrapped up in
devising employment for the multitudinous personnel that has been got
together. He then finds that he has not got sufficient accommodation
to house his legions--and so it goes on. He talks in moments of
relaxation of "introducing business methods into Whitehall." But that
is absurd. You could not introduce business methods into Whitehall,
because there is not room enough; you would have to commandeer the
whole of the West End, and then you would be cramped. While the big
men at the top are wrestling with housing problems, the staff are
engaged in writing minutes to each other--a process which, when
indulged in, in out-of-date institutions of the War Office,
Admiralty, Colonial Office type, is called "red tape," but which, when
put in force in a department watched over by Men of Business, is
called "push and go." Engulfed in one of the mushroom branches that
were introduced into the War Office in the later stages of the war, I
could not but be impressed by what I saw. The women were splendid: the
way in which they kept the lifts in exercise, each lady spending her
time going up and down, burdened with a tea-cup or a towel and
sometimes with both, was beyond all praise.

One is prejudiced perhaps, and may not on that account do full justice
to the achievements of some of those civilian branches which were
evolved within the War Office and which elbowed out military branches
altogether or else absorbed them. But they enjoyed great advantages,
and on that account much could fairly be expected of them. Your
civilian, introduced into the place with full powers, a blank cheque
and the uniform of a general officer, stood on a very different
footing from the soldier ever hampered by a control that was not
always beneficently administered--financial experts on the War Office
staff are apt to deliver their onsets upon the Treasury to the
battle-cry of _Kamerad_. Still, should the civilian elect to maintain
on its military lines the branch that he had taken over, he sometimes
turned out to be an asset. When the new broom adopted the plan of
picking out the best men on the existing staff, of giving those
preferred a couple of steps in rank, of providing them with large
numbers of assistants, and of housing the result in some spacious
edifice or group of edifices especially devised for the purpose, he
sometimes contrived to develop what had been an efficient organization
before into a still more efficient one. In that case the spirit of the
branch remained, it carried on as a military institution but with a
free hand and with extended liberty of action--and the public service
benefited although the cost was considerably greater. But that was not
always the procedure decided upon.

Whatever procedure was decided upon, every care was taken to
advertise. Advertisement is an art that the Man of Business thoroughly
understands, and as to which he has little to learn even from the
politician with a Press syndicate at his back. Soldiers are deplorably
apathetic in this respect. It will hardly be believed that during the
war the military department charged with works and construction often
left the immediate supervision of the creation of some set of
buildings in the hands of a single foreman of works, acting under an
officer of Royal Engineers who only paid a visit daily as he would
have several other duties of the same nature to perform. But if that
set of buildings under construction came to be transferred to a
civilian department or branch--the Ministry of Munitions, let us
say--a large staff of supervisors of all kinds was at once introduced.
Offices for them to carry on their supervisory duties in were erected.
The thing was done in style, employment was given to a number of
worthy people at the public expense, and it is quite possible that the
supervisory duties were carried on no less efficiently than they had
previously been by the foreman of works, visited daily by the officer
of Royal Engineers.

From the outbreak of war and for nearly two years afterwards, the
headquarters administration of the supply branch of our armies in all
theatres except Mesopotamia and East Africa was carried out at the War
Office by one director, five military assistants and some thirty
clerks, together with one "permanent official" civilian aided by
half-a-dozen assistants and about thirty clerks. It administered and
controlled and supervised the obtaining and distribution of all
requirements in food and forage, as also of fuel, petrol,
disinfectants, and special hospital comforts, not only for the armies
in the field but also for the troops in the United Kingdom. This meant
an expenditure which by the end of the two years had increased to
about half a million sterling per diem. Affiliated to this branch, as
being under the same director, was the headquarters administration of
the military-transport service, consisting of some fifteen military
assistants and fifty or sixty clerks. The military transport service
included a personnel of fully 300,000 officers and men, and the branch
was charged with the obtaining of tens of thousands of motor vehicles
of all kinds and of the masses of spare parts needed to keep them in
working order, together with many other forms of transport material.
The whole of these two affiliated military branches of the War Office
could have been accommodated comfortably on one single floor of the
Hotel Metropole! Well has it been said that soldiers have no
imagination.

There were four especial branches under me to which some reference
ought to be made. Of two of them little was, in the nature of things,
heard during the war; these two were secret service branches, the one
obtaining information with regard to the enemy, the other preventing
the enemy from receiving information with regard to us. Of the other
two, one dealt with the cable censorship and the other with the postal
censorship. The Committee of Imperial Defence has been taken to task
in some ill-informed quarters because of that crying lack of
sufficient land forces and of munitions of certain kinds which made
itself apparent when the crisis came upon us. It was, however, merely
a consultative and not an executive body. It had no hold over the
purse-strings. Shortcomings in these respects were the fault not of
the Committee of Imperial Defence but of the Government of the day. On
the other hand, the Committee did splendid work in getting expert
sub-committees to compile regulations that were to be brought into
force in each Government department on the outbreak of war--compiling
regulations cost practically nothing. Moreover, thanks to its
representations and to its action, organizations were created in
peace-time for prosecuting espionage in time of war and for ensuring
an effective system of contre-espionage; these were under the control
of the Director of Military Operations, and were the two secret
branches referred to above.

About the former nothing can appropriately be disclosed. So much
interesting information about the latter has appeared in _German Spies
at Bay_ that little need be said about it, except to repeat what has
already appeared in that volume--the branch had already achieved a
notable triumph more than a fortnight before our Expeditionary Force
fired a shot and some hours before the Royal Navy brought off their
first success. For the whole enemy spy system within the United
Kingdom was virtually laid by the heels within twenty-four hours of
the declaration of war. Every effort to set it up afresh subsequently
was nipped in the bud before it could do mischief.

One point, however, deserves to be placed on record. The
disinclination of H.M. Government to announce the execution of the
first enemy agent to meet his fate, Lodi, was one of the most
extraordinary incidents that came to my knowledge in connection with
enemy spies. Lodi was an officer, or ex-officer, and a brave man who
in the service of his country had gambled with his life as the
stake--and had lost. He had fully acknowledged the justice of his
conviction. All who were acquainted with the facts felt sympathy for
him, although there could, of course, be no question of not carrying
out the inevitable sentence of the court-martial. And yet our
Government wanted to hush the whole thing up. They did not seem to
realize that the shooting of a spy does not, when the spy is an enemy,
mean punishment for a crime, that it represents a penalty which has to
be inflicted as a deterrent, and which if it is to fulfil its purpose
must be made known. Those of us who knew the facts were greatly
incensed at the most improper, and indeed fatuous, attitude which the
Executive for a time took up. What made them change their minds I do
not know.

Then there was the cable censorship, an organization which did
admirable work and got little thanks for it. The personnel consisted
largely of retired officers, and many of them broke down under the
prolonged strain. The potentialities of the cable censorship had not
been fully foreseen when it was automatically established on
mobilization, and of what it accomplished the general public know
practically nothing at all. The conception of this institution had at
the outset merely been that of setting up a barrier intended to
prevent naval and military information that was calculated to be of
service to the enemy from passing over the wires, whether in cipher or
in clear. But an enterprising, prescient, and masterful staff
perceived ere long that their powers could be developed and turned to
account in other directions with advantage to the State, notably in
that of stifling the commercial activities of the Central Powers in
the Western Hemisphere. The consequence was that within a very few
months the cable censorship had transformed itself to a great extent
out of an effective shield for defence into a potent weapon of attack.
The measure of its services to the country will never be known, as
some of its procedure cannot perhaps advantageously be disclosed. Its
labours were unadvertised, and its praises remained unsung. But those
who were behind the scenes are well aware of what it accomplished,
creeping along unseen tracks, to bring about the downfall of the Hun.

The postal censorship started as a branch of comparatively modest
dimensions; but it gradually developed into a huge department,
employing a personnel which necessarily included large numbers of
efficient linguists. The remarkable success achieved by the
contre-espionage service in preventing the re-establishment of the
enemy spy system after it had been smashed at the start was in no
small degree due to the work of the censorship. That the requisite
number of individuals well acquainted with some of the outlandish
lingoes which had to be grappled with proved to be forthcoming, is a
matter of surprise and a subject for congratulation. This was not a
case merely of French, German, Italian, and languages more or less
familiar to our educated and travelled classes. Much of the work was
in Scandinavian and in occult Slav tongues, a good deal of it not even
written in the Roman character. The staff was largely composed, it
should be mentioned, of ladies, some of them quite young; but young or
old--no, that won't do, for ladies are never old--quite young or only
moderately young, they took to the work like ducks to the water and
did yeoman service. As in the case of the cable censorship, employment
in the postal censorship was a thankless job; but the labourers of
both sexes in the branch had at least the satisfaction of knowing that
they had done their bit--some of them a good deal more than their
bit--for their country in its hour of trial.

Reference was made in the last chapter to certain discussions which
took place in the winter of 1914-15 on the subject of suggested
conjunct naval and military operations on the Flanders coast. The
possibility of such undertakings was never entirely lost sight of
during 1915, although the diversion of considerable British forces to
far-off theatres of war necessarily enhanced the difficulties that
stood in the way of a form of project which had much to recommend it
from the strategical point of view. Our hosts on the Western Front
were absolutely dependent upon the security of the Narrow Seas, and
that security was being menaced owing to the enemy having laid his
grip upon Ostend and Zeebrugge. One afternoon in the autumn of 1915
Admiral Bacon of the Dover Patrol, who believed in an extremely active
defence, came to see me and we had a long and interesting
conversation. He was full of a scheme for running some ship-loads of
troops right into Ostend harbour at night and landing the men by
surprise about the mole and the docks. His plans were not, however, at
this time worked out so elaborately, nor had such effective
preparations been taken in hand with regard to them, as was the case
at a later date after Sir D. Haig had taken up command of the B.E.F.
The Admiral describes these preparations and his developed plans in
_The Dover Patrol_.

On the occasion of this talk in the War Office, Admiral Bacon was, if
I recollect aright, contemplating landing the troops straight off the
ordinary type of vessel, not off craft especially designed and
constructed for the particular purpose, as was intended in his
improved project. Nor was it, I think, proposed to use "beetles"
(these may perhaps all have gone to the Mediterranean). My impression
at the time was that the scheme had very much to recommend it in
principle, but that its execution as it stood must represent an
extremely hazardous operation of war. Nor was this a moment when one
felt much leaning towards new-fangled tactical and strategical
devices, for we had a large force locked up under most depressing
conditions in the Gallipoli Peninsula, we were apparently going to be
let in for trouble in Macedonia, and, although the United Kingdom and
the Dominions had by this time very large forces under arms, a
considerable proportion of the troops could hardly be looked upon as
efficient owing to lack of training.

Looking at this question of the Flanders littoral from what, in a
naval and military sense, may be called the academical point of view,
it is certainly a great pity that neither the project worked out by
Admiral Bacon in the winter of 1915-16 in agreement with G.H.Q., nor
yet the later plan for conjunct operations to take place in this coast
region had the Passchendael offensive of 1917 not been so disastrously
delayed, was put into execution. Had either of them actually been
carried out this must, whatever the result was, have provided one of
the most dramatic and remarkable incidents in the course of the Great
War.

Passing reference has already been made to Sir Archie Murray's
assumption of the position of C.I.G.S. in October 1915, when he
replaced the late Sir James Wolfe-Murray. Shrewd, indefatigable, of
very varied experience, an excellent administrator and a man of such
charming personality that he could always get the very best out of
his subordinates, Sir James would have admirably filled any high,
non-technical appointment within the War Office during the early part
of the contest, other than that which he was suddenly called upon to
take up on the death of Sir C. Douglas. Absolutely disinterested, his
energies wholly devoted to the service of the State, compelling the
respect, indeed the affection, of all of us who were under him in
those troublous times, a more considerate chief, nor one whose opinion
when you put a point to him you could accept with more implicit
confidence, it would have been impossible to find. But for occupying
the headship of the General Staff under the existing circumstances he
lacked certain desirable qualifications. Although well acquainted with
the principles that should govern the general conduct of war and no
mean judge of such questions, he was not disposed by instinct to
interest himself in the broader aspects of strategy and of military
policy. His bent was rather to concern himself with the details.
Somewhat cautious, nay diffident, by nature, he moreover shrank from
pressing his views, worthy of all respect as they were, on others, and
he was always guarded in expressing them even when invited to do so.

Dealing with a Secretary of State of Lord Kitchener's temperament,
reticence of this kind did not work. Lord K. liked you to say what you
thought without hesitation, and, once he knew you, he never resented
your giving an opinion even uninvited if you did so tactfully. As for
the personnel who constitute War Councils and their like, it is not
the habit of the politician to hide his light under a bushel, nor to
recoil from laying down the law about any matter with which he has a
bowing acquaintance. That an expert should sit mute when his own
subject is in debate, surprises your statesman profoundly. That the
expert should not be brimming over with a didactic and confident flow
of words when he has been invited to promulgate his views, confounds
your statesman altogether. General Wolfe-Murray never seemed to
succeed in getting on quite the proper terms either with his immediate
superior, the War Minister, or yet with the members of the Government
included in the War Council and the Dardanelles Committee; and it was
cruel luck that, with so fine a record in almost all parts of the
world to look back upon, this most meritorious public servant should
towards the close of his career have found himself unwillingly thrust
into a position for which, as he foresaw himself when he assumed it,
he was not altogether well suited.

Subsequent to returning from Russia, and very shortly after the loss
of the _Hampshire_ with Lord Kitchener and his party, I came to be for
some weeks unemployed, afterwards taking up a fresh appointment--one
in connection with Russian supplies, which later developed into one
covering supplies for all the Allies and to which reference will be
made in a special chapter. But the result was that, as a retired
officer, I ceased for the time being to be on the active list and
became a gentleman at large. Thereby hangs a tale; because it was just
at this juncture that I was asked by the Army Council to go into the
question of papers which were to be presented to the House of Commons
in connection with the Dardanelles Campaign. Badgered by inquisitive
members of that assembly, Mr. Asquith had committed himself to the
production of papers; and Mr. Churchill had got together a dossier
dealing with his share in the affair, which was sent to me to
consider, together with all the telegrams, and so forth, that bore on
the operations and their prologue.

On examining all this stuff, it soon became manifest that the
publication of any papers at all during the war, in connection with
this controversial subject, was to be deprecated. Still, one
recognized that the Prime Minister's promise had to be fulfilled
somehow; so the great object to be kept in view seemed to be to keep
publication within the narrowest possible limits compatible with
satisfying the curiosity of the people in Parliament. As a matter of
fact, there were passages in some of the documents which Mr. Churchill
proposed for production that must obviously be expunged, in view of
Allies' susceptibilities and of their conveying information which
might still be of value to the enemy. There could be no question that,
no matter how drastic might be the cutting-down process, the
Admiralty, the War Office and the Government would come badly out of
the business. Furthermore, any publication of papers must make known
to the world that Lord Kitchener's judgement in connection with this
particular phase of the war had been somewhat at fault.

When asking me to take the matter up, the Army Council had probably
overlooked my civilian status or forgotten what a strong position this
placed me in. An ex-soldier does not often get an opportunity of
enjoying an official heart-to-heart talk, on paper, with the
powers-that-be in the War Office. My report was to the effect that it
was undesirable to produce any papers at all during the war, but that,
as some had to be produced, they ought to be cut down to a minimum,
that everybody official concerned in the business at home would be
more or less shown up, that this was particularly unfortunate just at
this time in view of Lord Kitchener's lamented death, that the papers
must be limited to those bearing upon the period antecedent to the
actual landing of the army in the Gallipoli Peninsula, that if this
last proviso was accepted I would go fully into the question and
report in detail, and that if the proviso was not accepted I declined
to act and they might all go to the--well, one did not quite put it in
those words, but they would take it that way. The result was not quite
what one had either expected or desired. The production-of-papers
project was dropped, and the Dardanelles Commission was appointed
instead.

Mr. Lloyd George had become Secretary of State for War by this time.
He was full of zeal and of original ideas, nor had he any intention
of being merely a "passenger." He had, after the manner of new War
Ministers, introduced a fresh personal entourage into the place, and a
momentary panic, caused by the news that telephonic communications
into and out of the place were passing in an unknown guttural language
not wholly unlike German, was only allayed on its being ascertained
that certain of his hangers-on conversed over the wires in Welsh.
Besides being full of original ideas, the new Secretary of State was
in a somewhat restless mood. He took so keen an interest in some
wonderful scheme in connection with Russian railways (about which I
was freely consulted) that he evidently was hankering after going on a
mission to that part of the world himself. He no doubt believed that a
visit from him would be an equivalent for the visit by Lord Kitchener
which had been interrupted so tragically. To anybody who had recently
been to Russia, such an idea was preposterous. Few who counted in the
Tsar's dominions had ever heard of the Right Honourable Gentleman at
this time; Lord Kitchener's name, on the other hand, had been known,
and his personality had counted as an asset (as I knew from my own
experience), from Tornea on the Lappland borders to the highlands of
Erzerum. The project did not strike one as deserving encouragement,
and I did what I could to damp it down unobtrusively.

It was nearly a year later than this, in the summer of 1917, that,
owing to the horse of General Whigham, the Deputy C.I.G.S., slipping
up with him near the Marble Arch and giving him a nasty fall, he
became incapacitated for a month. Sir W. Robertson thereupon called me
in to act as _locum tenens_. From many points of view this proved to
be a particularly edifying and instructive experience. One could not
fail to be impressed with the smoothness with which the military side
of the War Office was working under the system which Sir William had
introduced, and one furthermore found oneself behind the scenes in
respect to the progress of the war and to numbers of matters only
known to the very few.

The plan under which nearly all routine work in connection with the
General Staff, work that the C.I.G.S. would otherwise be obliged to
concern himself with personally to a large extent, was delegated to a
Deputy who was a Member of the Army Council was an admirable
arrangement. It worked almost to perfection as far as I could see. It
allowed Sir W. Robertson, in consultation with his Directors of
Military Operations and of Intelligence, Generals Maurice and
Macdonogh, to devote his attention to major questions embracing the
conduct of the war on land as a whole. The Deputy in the meantime
wrestled with the details, with the correspondence about points of
secondary importance, in fact with the red tape if you like to call it
that, while keeping in close and constant touch with the
administrative departments and branches. Everybody advocates
de-centralization in theory; Sir William actually carried it out in
practice, reminding me of that Prince of military administrators, the
late Sir H. Brackenbury. The Deputy's room opened off that of the
C.I.G.S.; but on many days I never even saw him except when he looked
in for a minute to ask if I had anything for him, or when I happened
to walk home some part of the way to York House with him after the
trouble was over for the day.

It was intensely interesting to have the daily reports of casualties
at the Western Front passing through one's hands, and to note the
extent to which these mounted up on what might be called non-fighting
days as compared to days of attack. As this was during the opening
stages of the Flanders offensive subsequent to General Plumer's
victory at Messines, these statistics were extremely instructive. I do
not know whether the details have ever been worked out for the years
1915-17, but it looked to me at that time as if the losses in three
weeks of ordinary trench-warfare came on the average to about the same
total as did the losses in a regular formal assault of some section
of the enemy's lines. Or, putting the thing in another form and
supposing the above calculation to be correct, you would in three
weeks of continuous attack in a given zone only lose the same number
of men as you would lose in that same zone in a year of stagnant,
unprofitable trench-warfare. Some of our offensives on the Western
Front have been condemned on the grounds of their costliness in human
life; but it has not been sufficiently realized in the country how
heavy the losses were during periods of quiescence.

As acting D.C.I.G.S. one, moreover, enjoyed opportunities of examining
the various compiled statements showing the numbers of our forces in
the various theatres, with full information as to the strength of our
Allies' armies in all quarters, as well as the carefully prepared
estimates of the enemy's fighting resources as these were arrived at
by our Intelligence organizations in consultation with those of the
French, Italians, Belgians, and others. One learnt the full details of
our "order of battle" for the time being, exactly where the different
divisions, army corps, etc., were located, and who commanded them. It
transpired that the Entente host on the Salonika Front at this time
comprised no fewer than 655,000 of all ranks, without counting in the
Serbs who would have brought the total up to about 800,000, while the
enemy forces opposed to them were calculated to muster only about
450,000; the situation was, in fact, much worse than one had imagined.
One discovered that, while slightly over 17 per cent of the male
population of Great Britain had been enrolled as soldiers, only 5 per
cent of the Irish male population had come forward, and that but for
north-east Ulster the figure would not have reached 3 per cent. One
became aware, moreover, that the Army Council, or at least its
Military Members, were at loggerheads with the War Cabinet over the
problem of man-power, and that this question was from the military
point of view giving grounds for grave anxiety.

In one of my drawers there was the first draft of a [p.144] secret paper on
this subject, which expressed the views of the Military Members of the
Council in blunt terms, and which amounted in reality to a crushing
indictment of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet. I have a copy of the
draft in my possession, but as it was a secret document it would be
improper to give details of its contents; it, moreover, was somewhat
modified and mellowed in certain particulars before the paper was
actually sent to Downing Street. The final discussion took place at a
full meeting of the Army Council while I was acting as D.C.I.G.S., but
which I did not attend as not being a statutory member of that body.
Parliament ought to call for this paper; it was presented in July
1917; it practically foreshadowed what actually occurred in March
1918. The Military Members of the Council nearly resigned in a body
over this business; but they were not unanimous on the question of
resignation, although perfectly unanimous as regards the seriousness
of the position. It may be mentioned that at a considerably later date
the Army Council did, including its civilian members, threaten
resignation as a body when Sir N. Macready gave up the position of
Adjutant-General to become Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police,
owing to an attempt made from Downing Street to civilianize the
Adjutant-General's department. The Army Council beat Downing Street,
hands down.

The disquieting conditions in respect to man-power were, incidentally,
hampering the development of two important combatant branches at this
time, the Machine-Gun Corps and the Tank Corps. The heavy demands of
these two branches, coupled with the fact that infantry wastage was
practically exceeding the intake of recruits, threatened a gradual
disappearance of the principal arm of the Service. We had by this time
got long past the stage with which, when D.M.O., I had been familiar,
where lack of material and munitions was checking the growth of our
armies in the field. We had arrived at the stage where material and
munitions were ample, but where it was becoming very difficult to
maintain our armies in the field from lack of personnel--a state of
things directly attributable to the Government's opportunist,
hand-to-mouth policy in the matter, and to their disinclination to
insist upon practically the whole of the younger categories of male
adults joining the colours. The organization of the Tank Corps was
finally decided actually while I was acting as D.C.I.G.S. In so far as
the general control of Tank design and the numbers of these engines of
war to be turned out was concerned, it seemed to me to be a case of
"pull devil, pull baker" between the military and the civilians as to
how far these matters were to be left entirely to the technicalist;
but the technicalist was not perhaps getting quite so much to say in
the matter as was reasonable. The personal factor maybe entered into
the question.

When the War Office had been reconstituted by the Esher Committee in
1904, the Admiralty organization had been to a great extent taken as a
model for the Army Council arrangement which the triumvirate then
introduced. Thirteen years later the Admiralty was reorganized, and on
this occasion the War Office system of 1904, as modified and developed
in the light of experience in peace and in war, was taken as the model
for the rival institution. Whigham had played a part in the carrying
out of this important reform, lending his advice to the sailors and
explaining the distribution of duties amongst the higher professional
authorities on our side of Whitehall, especially in connection with
the General Staff. The most urgently needed alteration to be sought
after was the relieving of the First Sea Lord of a multitude of duties
which were quite incompatible with his giving full attention to really
vital questions in connection with employing the Royal Navy. For years
past he had been a sort of Pooh Bah, holding a position in some
respects analogous to that occupied by Lord Wolseley and Lord Roberts
when they had been nominally "Commander-in-chief" of the army. Under
the arrangements made with the assistance of the War Office in 1917,
a post somewhat analogous to that of D.C.I.G.S. was set up at the
Admiralty, and the First Sea Lord was thenceforward enabled to see to
the things that really mattered as he never had been before. Although
the amount of current work to be got through daily when acting as
Deputy C.I.G.S. proved heavy enough during the month when I was _locum
tenens_, it was not so heavy as to preclude my looking through the
instructive documents dealing with this matter amongst Whigham's
papers.

The glorious uncertainty of cricket is acknowledged to be one of the
main attractions of our national game. But the glorious uncertainty of
cricket is as nothing compared to the glorious uncertainty which
obtains in time of war as to what silly thing H.M. Government--or some
of its shining lights--will be wanting to do next. At this time the
War Cabinet, or perhaps one ought rather to say certain members of
that body, had got it into their heads that to send round a lot of Sir
Douglas Haig's troops (who were pretty well occupied as it was) to the
Isonzo Front would be a capital plan, the idea being to catch the
Central Powers no end of a "biff" in this particular quarter. That
fairly banged Banagher. For sheer fatuity it was the absolute limit.

Ever since the era of Hannibal, if not indeed since even earlier
epochs, trampling, hope-bestirred armies have from generation to
generation been bursting forth like a pent-up torrent from that broad
zone of tumbled Alpine peaks which overshadows Piedmont, Lombardy and
Venetia, to flood their smiling plains with hosts of fighting men. Who
ever heard of an army bursting in the opposite direction? Napoleon
tried it, and rugged, thrusting Suvorof; but they did not get much
change out of it. The mountain region has invariably either been in
possession of the conquerors at the start, or else it has been
acquired by deliberate, protracted process during the course of a
lengthy struggle, before the dramatic coup has been delivered by which
the levels have been won. The wide belt of highlands extending from
Switzerland to Croatia remained in the enemy's hands up to the time of
the final collapse of the Dual Monarchy subsequent to the rout of the
Emperor Francis' legions on the Piave. The Italians had in the summer
of 1917 for two years been striving to force their way into these
mountain fastnesses, and they had progressed but a very few miles.
They had not only been fighting the soldiery of the Central Powers,
but had also been fighting Nature. Nature often proves a yet more
formidable foe than do swarms of warriors, even supposing these to be
furnished with all modern requirements for prosecuting operations in
the field.

Roads are inevitably few and far between in a mountainous region. In
such terrain, roads and railways can be destroyed particularly easily
and particularly effectively by a retiring host. In this kind of
theatre, troops can only quit the main lines of communications with
difficulty, and localities abound where a very inferior force will for
a long time stay the advance of much more imposing columns. You can no
more cram above a given number of men on to a certain stretch of road
when on the move, than you can get a quart into a pint pot. Even if
your enemy simply falls back without fighting, destroying all
viaducts, tunnels, embankments, culverts, and so forth, your army will
take a long time to traverse the highlands--unless it be an uncommonly
small one. Armies in these days are inevitably of somewhat bloated
dimensions if they are to do any good. Theatrical strategy of the
flags-on-the-map order is consequently rather at a discount in an
arena such as the War Cabinet, or some members of that body, proposed
to exploit. Even had there been no other obvious objections to a
diversion of force such as they contemplated, the project ignored
certain elementary aspects of the conduct of warlike operations which
might be summed up in the simple expression "common-sense."

But there were other obvious objections. To switch any force worth
bothering about from northern France to the Friuli flats was bound to
be a protracted process, because only two railways led over the Alps
from Dauphiné and Provence into the basin of the Po; and those lines
were distinguished for their severe gradients. It was, as a matter of
fact, incomparably easier for the enemy to mass reinforcements in the
Julian Alps than it was for the two Western Powers to mass
reinforcements in the low ground facing that great area of rugged
hills. The question of a transfer of six divisions from the Western
Front to Venetia had, however, been gone into very thoroughly by the
General Staff in view of conceivable eventualities. An elaborate
scheme had been drawn up by experienced officers, who had examined the
question in consultation with the Italian military authorities, and
had traversed the communications that would have to be brought into
play were such a move to be carried out. What time the transfer would
take was a matter of calculation based on close examination of the
details. The final report came to hand while I was acting as Deputy
C.I.G.S., although its general purport had already been communicated
several weeks before. Two or three months later, when it suddenly
became necessary to rush British and French troops round from northern
France to the eastern portions of the Po basin after the singular
_débâcle_ of Caporetto, actual experience proved the forecasts made in
this report to have been quite correct. There was not much "rushing"
about the move. It took weeks to complete.

General Pershing and his staff arrived in England just at this time,
and I enjoyed the pleasure of meeting them and discussing many
matters. The attitude of these distinguished soldiers, one and all,
impressed us most agreeably. One had heard something about "Yankee
bounce" in the past, which exists no doubt amongst some of the
citizens of the great Republic across the water. But here we found a
body of officers who, while manifestly knowing uncommonly well what
they were about, were bent on learning from us everything that they
possibly could, and who from the outset proved themselves singularly
ready to fall in with our methods of doing business even where those
methods differed widely from what they had been accustomed to.

Some weeks later (in the capacity of War Office representative) I
accompanied Lord Jellicoe and Admiral Sims, together with Sir I.
Malcolm and Sir W. Wiseman of the Foreign Office, to Devonport to meet
a large party of high officials from the United States who were coming
over to Europe to take general charge of things in connection with the
American share in the war. It was headed by Colonel House, and
included the Chiefs of the Naval and Military Staffs with their
assistants, as well as financial and other delegates. We arrived some
time before the two cruisers conveying the party were due, so we
proceeded to Admiralty House. While waiting there, one was afforded a
most welcome opportunity of learning something about how the strings
were being pulled over the great water-area which was under special
charge of the local commander-in-chief. The whole thing was set out on
a huge fixed map covering, I think, the billiard-table. On it were
shown where the various convoys were at the moment, the minefields,
the positions where German U-boats had recently been located, and
numberless other important details. To a landsman it was absorbingly
interesting to have all this explained, just as it had been
interesting, a few days before, to visit General Ashmore's office at
the Horse Guards and to learn on the map how the London anti-aircraft
defences were controlled during an attack.

Just about dusk the two cruisers were descried coming in past the
breakwater, so it became a question of getting to the Keyham dockyard
where they were to fetch up. Ever keen for exercise in any form, Lord
Jellicoe decided to walk, and the commander-in-chief went with him.
Knowing the distance and the somewhat unattractive approaches leading
to the Keyham naval establishments, and as it, moreover, looked and
felt uncommonly like rain, I preferred to wait and to proceed in due
course by car, as did all the rest of our party. The flag-lieutenant
and the naval officer who had come down with Lord Jellicoe from the
Admiralty likewise thought that a motor was good enough for them. By
the time that the automobile party reached the dockyard it was pitch
dark and pouring rain, and the cruisers were already reported as
practically alongside; but to our consternation there was no sign of
the two flag-officers. Now, a dog who has lost his master is an
unperturbed, torpid, contented creature compared with a
flag-lieutenant who has lost his admiral, and there was a terrible
to-do. All the telephones were buzzing and ringing, the dockyard
police were eagerly interrogated, and there was already talk of
despatching search-parties, when the two distinguished truants
suddenly turned up, exceedingly hot, decidedly wet, and, if the truth
must be told, looking a little muddy and bedraggled. However, there
was no time to be lost, and we all rushed off into the night heading
for where the vessels were to berth. How we did not break our necks
tumbling into a dry-dock or find a watery grave tumbling into a wet
one, I do not know. We certainly most of us barked our shins against
anchors, chains, bollards, and every sort of pernicious litter such as
the sister service loves to fondle, and the language would have been
atrocious had we not been out of breath--the Foreign Office indeed
contrived to be explosive even as it was. However, we managed to reach
the jetty after all just as the two big warships had been warped
alongside, winning by a nose. So all was well.

Colonel House and his party had not been fortunate in their weather
during the crossing, and they had come to the conclusion that a
fighting ship represented an overrated form of ocean liner. More than
one of the soldiers and civilians confided to me that if there was no
other way of getting across the herring-pond on the way back than by
cruiser, they would stop this side. They were all quite pleased to
find themselves on dry land, and during the journey up to town by
special there was plenty of time to make acquaintance and to discuss
general questions. One point was made plain. Mr. Balfour's recently
concluded mission to the United States had been a tremendous success.
Junior officers who had not met him spoke of him almost with bated
breath, and a hint that he might be at the terminus to greet the party
caused unbounded satisfaction. When we steamed into Paddington about 1
o'clock A.M. and his tall figure was descried on the platform, the
whole crowd burst out of the train in a disorderly swarm, jostling
each other in trying to get near him and have a chance of shaking his
hand; it was quite a business getting them sorted and under control
again so as to start them off in the waiting cars to Claridge's. We do
not always send the right man as envoy to foreign parts, but we had
managed it that time.



CHAPTER VIII

THE NEAR EAST

     The first talk about Salonika -- The railway and the port -- The
     question of operations based on Macedonia at the end of 1914 --
     Failure of "easterners" to realize that the Western Front was
     Germany's weakest front -- Question whether it might not have
     been better to go to Salonika than to go to the Dardanelles --
     Objections to such a plan -- The problem of Bulgaria --
     Consequences of the Russian _débâcle_ -- Difficulty of the Near
     Eastern problem in the early summer -- An example of how the
     Dardanelles Committee approached it -- Awkwardness of the problem
     after the failure of Sir I. Hamilton's August offensive -- The
     Bulgarian attitude -- Entente's objection to Serbia attacking
     Bulgaria -- I am ordered to Salonika, but order countermanded --
     The disaster to Serbia -- Hard to say what ought to have been
     done -- Real mistake, the failure to abandon the Dardanelles
     enterprise in May -- The French attitude about Salonika --
     General Sarrail -- French General Staff impressed with War Office
     information concerning Macedonia -- Unsatisfactory situation at
     the end of 1915 -- The Salonika business a blunder all through --
     Eventual success does not alter this.


"If you've 'eard the East a-callin', you won't never 'eed nought
else," Rudyard Kipling's old soldier sings, mindful of spacious days
along the road to Mandalay. The worst of the East, however, is that
people hear it calling who have never been there in their lives. That
there were individuals in high places who were subject to this
mysterious influence, became apparent at a comparatively early stage
of the World War.

The first occasion on which, apart from a few outpost affairs over the
Dardanelles with Mr. Churchill to which reference has already been
made, "easternism" (as it came to be called later) raised its head to
my knowledge to any alarming extent, was when Colonel Hankey asked me,
one day early in December 1914, to go across to Treasury Buildings to
meet Sir E. Grey and Mr. Lloyd George. There is not a more depressing
structure in existence than Treasury Buildings. The arrangement of the
interior is a miracle of inconvenience, on the most cloudless of days
its apartments are wrapped in gloom, and no decorator has been
permitted to pass its portals since it was declared fit for occupation
in some forgotten age. But Mr. Lloyd George, who was Chancellor of the
Exchequer at this time, is ever like a ray of sunshine illumining
otherwise dark places, and on this occasion he was at his very
brightest. He had made a discovery. He had found on a map that there
was quite a big place--it was shown in block capitals--called
Salonika, tucked away in a corner of the Balkans right down by the
sea. The map furthermore indicated by means of an interminable
centipede that a railway led from this place Salonika right away up
into Serbia, and on from thence towards the very heart of the Dual
Monarchy. Here was a chance of starting an absolutely new hare. The
Chancellor, _allegro con fuoco_, was in a buoyant mood, as was indeed
only to be expected under such circumstances, and he was geniality
itself when I appeared in the apartment where Sir E. Grey and Hankey
were awaiting me together with himself. We should be able to deal the
enemy a blow from an entirely unexpected direction, the days of
stalemate in the half-frozen morasses of Flanders would be at an end,
we would carry the Balkans with us, it would be absolutely top-hole.
Although obviously interested--it could hardly be otherwise when the
words "Near East" were mentioned--the Foreign Secretary was careful
not to give himself away. You have to make a practice of that when you
are Foreign Secretary.

Now, it so happened that I had been at Salonika more than once, and
also that I had travelled along this very railway more than once and
had carefully noted matters in connection with it so long as daylight
served. Much more important than that, there were in the archives of
my branch at the War Office very elaborate reports on the railway,
and there was moreover full information as to the capabilities and the
incapabilities of the port of Salonika for the discharge of what was
animate and what was inanimate. It was a case of an extensive haven
that provided shelter in all weathers for ocean-going ships, but
possessing most indifferent facilities for landing merchandise, or
animals, or persons, considering the importance of the site. And it
was, moreover, a case of one single line of railway meandering up a
trough-like valley which at some points narrowed into a defile, a
railway of severe gradients with few passing stations, a railway which
assuredly would be very short of rolling stock--although this latter
disability could no doubt be overcome easily enough. One somehow did
not quite picture to oneself an army of many divisions comfortably
advancing from Belgrade on Vienna based on Salonika, and depending
upon the Salonika-Belgrade railway for its food, for its munitions,
and for its own means of transit from the Mediterranean to its
launching place. Besides, there were no reserves of troops ready to
hand for projecting into the Balkans at this juncture. Only a very few
weeks had passed since those days of peril when Sir J. French and the
"Old Contemptibles" had, thanks to resolute leadership and to a
splendid heroism on the part of regimental officers and rank-and-file,
just managed to bring the German multitudes up short as these were
surging towards the Channel Ports. Fancy stunts seemed to be at a
discount at the moment, and I found it hard to be encouraging.

Some statesmen are ever, unconsciously perhaps but none the less
instinctively, gravitating towards the line of least resistance, or
towards what they imagine to be the line of least resistance. This,
peradventure, accounts to some extent for the singular attraction
which operations in the Near East, or Palestine, or anywhere other
than on the Western Front, always seemed to present to certain highly
placed men of affairs. The idea that the actual strategical position
in those somewhat remote regions was such as to constitute any one of
them the line of least resistance from the Entente point of view, was
based on a complete misreading of the military situation. That theory
was founded on the fallacy that the Western Front represented the
enemy's strongest point. It was, on the contrary, the enemy's weakest
point, because this front was from its geographical position the one
where British and French troops could most easily be assembled, and it
was the one on which a serious defeat to the enemy necessarily
threatened that enemy with a grave, if not an irretrievable, disaster.
It is true that for the comparatively short period during which Russia
really counted, that is to say during the early months before Russian
munitions gave out, the Eastern Front--the Poland Front--was a weak
point for the Germans. But the Russian bubble had been pricked in the
eyes of those behind the scenes long before the great advance of the
German and Austro-Hungarian armies over the Vistula and into the heart
of the Tsar's dominions began in the early summer of 1915.

Scarcely had the Salonika venture been mooted than the Dardanelles
venture cropped up and was actually embarked on; so that for the nonce
the advocates of an advance through Serbia--I am not sure that there
was more than one at the time--abandoned that project. But although
the Serbs had succeeded early in the winter of 1914-15 in driving the
Austro-Hungarian invading columns ignominiously back over the Save and
the Danube, the position of this isolated Ally of ours was giving
grounds for anxiety from an early period in 1915, and it always
presented a serious problem for the Entente. Colonel Basil Buckley, my
right-hand man with regard to the Near East, had it constantly in
mind.

It is always easy to be wise after the event; what in the world would
become of the noble army of critics if it were not so? Still, looking
back in the light of the sequel upon the political and strategical
situation that existed in the Near East early in 1915, it does look as
if the right course for the Western Powers to have adopted then (so
soon as there were troops available for another theatre without
hopelessly queering the Entente pitch on the Western Front) would have
been to use those troops for lending Serbia a hand instead of
despatching them to the Dardanelles. Even a weaker force than that
with which Sir I. Hamilton embarked on the Gallipoli venture
(nominally five Anglo-Australasian and two French divisions) would
have proved an invaluable moral, and an effective actual, support to
the Serbs; and its arrival on the Morava and the Save could hardly
have failed to influence to some extent the attitude of Bulgaria and
Roumania, and assuredly would have caused the Austro-Hungarian
monarchy some heart-burnings. It has been said that M. Briand (who did
not assume the premiership in France until a somewhat later date)
advocated the despatch of Entente troops to Serbia in the spring of
1915, and that the question was discussed between the British and
French Governments; but I know nothing of this, only having come to be
behind the scenes of the Near Eastern drama at a somewhat later date.

Objections to such a course undoubtedly existed, even leaving out of
account the fact that our Government was, with the approval of that of
Paris, committing itself at the time more and more definitely to the
Hellespont-Bosphorus-Black Sea project. In the first place, Salonika
happened to be in the hands of neutral Greece, although that
difficulty would probably have been got over readily enough then. In
the second place, the despatch of a Franco-British force to Serbia in
the spring would have been playing the enemy's game to the extent of
virtually tying up that force and of condemning it to inactivity for
the time being, so as to provide against a danger--hostile attack on
Serbia--which might never materialize, and which actually did not
materialize until the autumn. In the third place, there was always,
with amateur strategists about, the grave risk that a measure taken
with the object of safeguarding Serbia as far as possible, might
translate itself into a great offensive operation against the Central
Powers from the south, absorbing huge Anglo-French forces, conducted
under great difficulties in respect to communications with the sea,
and playing into the hands of the German Great General Staff by
enabling that wide-awake body to make the very fullest use of its
strategical assets in respect to "interior lines." Finally, we could
not depend upon Bulgaria siding with the Entente, nor even Roumania;
and although Italy would certainly not take up arms against us she had
not yet declared herself an Ally.

The above reference to Bulgaria introduces a question which added
greatly to the perplexities of the Near Eastern problem then and
afterwards, perplexities that were aggravated by the well-founded
suspicion with which Bulgaria's monarch was on all hands regarded. The
Bulgars coveted Macedonia. But the greater part of Macedonia happened
as a result of the Balkan upheavals of 1912 and 1913 to belong to
Serbia, and the rest of it belonged to Greece. Into the ethnographical
aspect of the Macedonian problem it is not necessary to enter here.
The cardinal fact remained that Bulgaria wanted, and practically
demanded, this region. While we might have been ready enough to give
away Greek territory which did not belong to us, we really could not
give away Serbian territory which did not belong to us seeing that
Serbia was an Ally actually embattled on our side and with a
victorious campaign already to her credit. Macedonia at a later date
upset the applecart.

Things were already from our point of view in something of a tangle in
the Balkans by the vernal equinox of 1915; but they had got into much
more of a tangle by the time that spring was merging into summer. At
that stage, the failure of our naval effort against the Dardanelles
had been followed by our military effort coming to a disconcerting
standstill, and the Bulgarian and Greek Governments in common with
their military authorities made up their minds that the operation
against the Straits was doomed. That was bad enough in all conscience,
but worse was to follow. Because then the Russian bubble was suddenly,
dramatically, and publicly pricked, the Tsar's stubborn soldiery,
without ammunition and almost without weapons, could not even maintain
themselves against the Austro-Hungarian forces, much less against the
formidable German hosts that were suddenly turned loose upon them, and
within the space of a very few weeks the situation on the Eastern
Front, which at least in appearance had been favourable enough during
the winter and the early spring, suddenly became transformed into one
of profoundest gloom from the Entente point of view. Even a much less
unpromising diplomatic situation than that which had existed in the
Balkans between December and May was bound to become an untoward one
under such conditions. Our side had come to be looked upon as the
losing side. No amount of skill on the part of our Foreign Office nor
of the Quai d'Orsay could compensate for the logic of disastrous
facts. The performances of H.M. Government in connection with Bulgaria
and Greece at this time have been the subject of much acid criticism.
But in time of war it is the victorious battalions that count, not the
wiles of a Talleyrand nor of a Great Elchi. The failure in the
Dardanelles and the Russian collapse settled our hash in the Near East
for the time being, and no amount of diplomatic juggling could have
effectually repaired the mischief.

Exactly what line the General Staff would have taken up had they been
called upon, say at the beginning of July, to give a considered
opinion in the form of a carefully prepared memorandum as to the
course that ought to be followed in connection with the Dardanelles
and Serbia, it is hard to say. That there was considerable risk of
Serbia being assailed in force by the Central Powers before long was
manifest. On the other hand, there we were, up to the neck in the
Dardanelles venture, and strong reinforcements were at this time
belatedly on their way out to Sir I. Hamilton from home. The position
was a decidedly awkward one. To despatch further contingents to this
part of the world, over and above those already on the way or under
orders, was virtually out of the question, unless the Near East was to
be accepted as the Entente's main theatre of war--which way madness
lay. To divert the Dardanelles reinforcements to Salonika destroyed
such hopes as remained of the Gallipoli campaign proving a success
after all. Human nature being what it is, there would have been a sore
temptation to adopt the attitude of "wait and see" which might perhaps
have commended itself to Mr. Asquith, to let things take their course,
to be governed by how Sir I. Hamilton's contemplated offensive panned
out, and to trust to a decision in that quarter taking place before
isolated Serbia should actually be imperilled. But in those days the
General Staff never was asked to give a considered opinion. At the
Dardanelles Committee which had all these matters in hand, one seldom,
if ever, was given an opportunity of expressing views on the broader
aspects of any question. The methods in vogue on the part of that body
are indeed well illustrated by the following incident.

One evening in August, about 7 P.M., just when I was getting to the
end of my work for the day, Colonel Swinton, who for many months past
had been acting as "Eye-Witness" with Sir J. French's forces, turned
up unexpectedly in my room. My pleasure at meeting an old friend,
recently from the hub of things in France and whom I had not seen for
a long time, gave place to resentment when he explained what he had
come for. It appeared that he had a short time previously arrived in
the United Kingdom to act temporarily as Secretary of the Committee of
Imperial Defence (which practically meant the Dardanelles Committee at
the moment), and he had been called upon, right off the reel, to
prepare a memorandum on the Dardanelles situation, which was to be
ready next morning. Knowing comparatively little about the
Dardanelles, he had come to consult me. In the first instance I
absolutely declined to oblige. I had no authority from Lord K. or the
C.I.G.S. to express views on this subject on paper for the benefit of
the Committee. Furthermore--and perhaps this weighed more heavily in
the scale than did official considerations--I was "fed up." One
generally was by 7 P.M. at the War Office. The very idea of starting
at this hour upon a memorandum about anything, let alone the
Dardanelles, was infuriating.

Swinton, however, eventually prevailed upon me to lend a hand on the
distinct understanding, pressed for by me, that it remained a hidden
hand. After all, this intrusion of his did provide some sort of
opportunity for putting the situation plainly before the Committee,
and for expressing a vertebrate opinion. We proceeded to the club and
dined together, and thereafter, refreshed and my equanimity restored
by a rest and hearing the news from across the water, we grappled with
the subject in the C.I.D. office. "Ole Luke Oie" could be trusted to
put a thing tersely and with vigour once he knew what to say, and the
document did not take long to draft. We took the line that in the
Gallipoli Peninsula it was a case of getting on or of getting out. The
core of this memorandum is quoted in the "Final Report" of the
Dardanelles Commission, where it is pointed out that no mention is
made of a middle course. That was intentional. A middle course was
regarded by us as wholly unjustifiable, although it was the one which
the Dardanelles Committee adopted; for that body did not take our
advice--it neither got on nor got out.

The situation in the Near East as a whole became a more anxious one
than ever after the failure of Sir I. Hamilton's August offensive,
because by this time Russia's collapse was complete, and the legions
of the Central Powers which had been flooding Poland, Grodno and
Volhynia, impeded by sparsity of communications rather than by the
resistance of the Grand Duke Nicholas's ammunitionless army, had
become available for operations in a new direction. The portents all
pointed to an attack upon Serbia. If Serbia was to receive effective
aid at the hands of the Western Powers, that aid must be well in
motion before the enemy hosts should gather on the northern and
western frontiers of our threatened Ally, otherwise the aid would
assuredly be late owing to the difficulty of moving troops rapidly
from board ship in Salonika roads, up to the theatre of operations.
Hopes still existed, on the other hand, at least in the minds of some
of the members of the Dardanelles Committee, that by sending
additional reinforcements to Sir I. Hamilton a success might be
obtained even yet in that quarter. The French for a week or two
contemplated despatching four divisions which were to operate on the
Asiatic side of the Hellespont; but the situation on the Western Front
put an end to this design. There were two stools, the Dardanelles and
Salonika, and among us we contrived to sit down between them. For
while all this was in debate the danger to Serbia grew apace, and
intelligence sources of information now made it certain that the
German Great General Staff had not only planned, but had already made
nearly all the preparations for, a great stroke in the direction of
the western Balkans.

In this distressing state of affairs Bulgaria was always the uncertain
factor. Her attitude could not be gauged with certainty, but it was
extremely suspicious throughout. A pro-Bulgar element had for some
months been listened to by our Foreign Office with greater respect
than it deserved, although nobody, pro-Bulgar or anti-Bulgar,
entertained any trust in Tsar Ferdinand's integrity. Had Serbia even
at this late hour been willing to relinquish Macedonia, it is
conceivable that Bulgaria might have remained neutral, and that
Ferdinand might have broken such engagements as he had secretly
entered into with the Central Powers. But utter distrust and bitter
hatred of Bulgaria prevailed in Serbia. Our Ally perhaps hardly
sufficiently realized that national aspirations ought rather to
direct themselves towards the Adriatic and the regions inhabited by
Serb stock under Austro-Hungarian rule, than towards districts peopled
by mixed races on the shores of the Aegean. Be that as it may, the
idea of delivering up Macedonia to the traditional Eastern enemy was
scouted at Belgrade. We hoped that at the worst Greece would, in
accordance with treaty obligations, take sides with Serbia should
Bulgaria throw in her lot with the Central Powers against the Serbs.
Then came the attack of the German and Austro-Hungarian forces,
synchronizing with the mobilization of the Bulgarian army.

The Nish Government--Belgrade had been quitted by this
time--entertained no illusions whatever regarding Bulgarian
intentions, and wished to assume the offensive promptly eastwards
while this very suspicious mobilization was still in progress. Our
Government--I am not sure what attitude the French, Russian, and
Italian Governments took up--realized that Serbia's seizing the
initiative put an end to all hopes of Greece lending a hand, and they
virtually vetoed the project, as has already been mentioned in Chapter
IV. That, as it turned out, was an unfortunate decision, because it
fatally injured the Serbian prospects of preventing their territory
being overrun before the French and we could intervene effectively,
while it did not secure Greek adhesion. We virtually staked on King
Constantine, and we found too late that our King was a Knave.

Just at this awkward juncture Lord Kitchener instructed me to be
prepared to proceed to Salonika, and all the necessary steps for
starting on the journey were promptly taken; but it was not clear what
capacity I was going in. It seemed a mistake, although one was
naturally heartened at the prospect of activities in a new sphere,
even if these were only to be of a temporary character. But, as it
turned out, the Dardanelles Committee (or the War Council, I am not
sure of the exact date when the Dardanelles Committee deceased)
intervened, wishing me to remain at my post. In view of what
followed, one was well out of intimate contact with the Macedonian
imbroglio on the spot, because, as everybody knows now, the
Franco-British forces arrived too late to save Serbia from reverses
which amounted to an almost overwhelming disaster at the hands of the
great hosts which the Central Powers and Bulgaria threw into the
scale.

We and the French had, judged by results, made a hideous mess of
things between us. The Allies were late at a critical juncture--and in
war that is the unpardonable sin. Sir E. Carson, who had for a brief
period proved himself a tower of strength on the Dardanelles
Committee, resigned from the Cabinet in disgust. Lord Milner,
independent man of affairs at the time, spoke out strongly on the
subject in the House of Lords. But although the opinion of either of
them is well worth having on most questions, and although both know
their own minds, I doubt whether they, either of them, had any clear
idea then as to what ought to have been done to avert the catastrophe,
and I doubt whether they, either of them, have a clear idea now.
Subsequent to May we were confronted with a horribly complex military
and political situation in the Near East (and by that time military
forces were already committed to the Dardanelles venture); because it
was only then that the position of affairs on the Eastern Front and in
the Near East became transformed owing to the Russian _débâcle_--a
_débâcle_ which turned out to be considerably greater than the
available information as to our Ally's munition difficulties had led
us to anticipate.

It is easy to say now, after the event, that we ought to have come
away from the Dardanelles in June, and to have transferred the force
there, or part of it, to Serbia, which was obviously placed in peril
by Russia's collapse. But in June reinforcements were already
earmarked for the Gallipoli Peninsula, and Sir I. Hamilton was
confident of achieving a substantial success after they should arrive.
It is easy to say now, after the event, that, immediately the
offensive from Anzac and Suvla in August miscarried, we ought to have
come out of the Gallipoli Peninsula and to have transferred the force
there, or some of it, to Serbia. But in the latter part of August the
French were disposed to send a substantial contingent to the Asiatic
side of the Straits, we were supposed to have troops to spare for that
part of the world, and it was not until early September that all this
was dropped in view of events on the Western Front. It is easy to say
now, after the event, that the Entente ought to have foreseen that
King Constantine would throw Serbia over in any case, and that
therefore we ought not to have prevented the Serbs from attacking
Bulgaria while she was still mobilizing. But we trusted a King's word,
and we knew that M. Venizelos was heart and soul on our side. It is
easy to say now that we ought to have insisted on Serbia buying off
Bulgar hostility by handing over Macedonia. But Serbia might have
refused despite our insisting, and, when all is said and done, Serbia
has succeeded in keeping Macedonia after all. Ought we to have come
out of the Dardanelles in September, as soon as it was decided that
neither the French nor British would send reinforcements thither, and
to have transferred the troops to Salonika? Assuredly we ought then to
have come away from the Gallipoli Peninsula. But the evacuation must
have been a ticklish business, and to have aggravated its difficulties
by despatching its war-worn garrison simultaneously to Salonika and
Serbia, just when great enemy contingents were gathering on the Danube
and the Save, would have thrown a tremendous strain upon staff, upon
troops, and upon the shipping resources of all kinds actually on the
spot.

No. Leaving out of consideration the blunder of having drifted into
the Dardanelles enterprise at all, the real mistake lay in not
abandoning that enterprise when it became apparent that the troops
originally detailed could not accomplish their purpose, when it became
apparent that gaining a footing on the Gallipoli Peninsula meant
gaining a footing and no more and that no aid was to be expected from
Bulgaria or from Greece. It was just at that juncture that Russia
began to give out and that the tide turned in favour of the Central
Powers on the eastern side of Europe. The matter was primarily one for
H.M. Government, because the French were not deeply committed to the
effort against the Straits; but H.M. Government at that moment
happened to be in a state of flux. The staff at G.H.Q., St. Omer, were
no doubt not absolutely unprejudiced judges; but I was hearing
constantly from General H. Wilson between August 1914 and the end of
1915, and he always wrote in the same strain about the Dardanelles
from April onwards: "Cut your losses and come out."

Some mention has already been made of M. Briand's inclination for
Entente efforts based on Salonika. In the autumn of 1915 that eminent
French statesman was head of the Government in Paris, and his Cabinet
took up a very strong line indeed over this question. We all agreed
that neither the city, linked as it was by railway with Central
Europe, nor yet its spacious land-locked haven must fall into enemy
hands. Our naval authorities were in full agreement with the French
naval authorities on that point. But when it came to projects for
planting down large military forces in this area, with the idea of
ultimate offensive operations northward ever in the background, we of
the General Staff at the War Office demurred, and we were, at all
events in principle, supported by the majority of the War Council.
Lord Kitchener left for the Aegean at this time; but both before going
and after his return he always, as far as I know, deprecated locking
up fighting resources in Macedonia. Our Allies across the Channel
were, however, somewhat insistent. Two conferences took place: one, a
military one at Chantilly at the very end of October, and a more
authoritative one a few days later in Paris, both of which I attended.
More will be said about these _réunions_ in Chapter XII. General
Joffre, with some of his staff, also paid a visit to London in
connection with the matter. The upshot was that the French practically
forced us into the policy of maintaining a large force about Salonika.
But H.M. Government were placed in a difficult position in the matter,
seeing that their pet project (or at all events the pet project of the
pre-Coalition Government), that of attacking the Dardanelles, had so
completely failed.

One could not altogether escape from the impression at the time that,
in the determined attitude which our friends over the water adopted on
this point, they were at least to some small extent actuated by
anxiety to maroon General Sarrail, who had been sent off in command of
the French troops already despatched, and also to keep him quiet by
investing him with the supreme command in this new theatre of war--as
was later arranged. Why the strong political support enjoyed in
certain French quarters by this prominent, and in the opening days of
the war highly successful, soldier should have been taken so
seriously, it was hard for anybody on our side of the Straits of Dover
to understand. One wonders whether M. Clemenceau might not have been
somewhat less discomposed on the subject had he been at the head of
affairs. But the attitude adopted on the point became extremely
inconvenient at a later date when, after an offensive on a large scale
undertaken on the Salonika front had miscarried completely, owing
largely, if not entirely, to a lamentable lack of co-ordination
between the various contingents engaged, a change in the chief command
did not instantly follow. Unsatisfactory as was the policy of
interning large bodies of British and French troops that were badly
wanted at the decisive point, in a sort of cul-de-sac in the Near
East, it was made all the more unsatisfactory by the way the military
situation was dealt with locally for more than a year and a half.

In view of certain criticisms of the General Staff to which the lack
of information concerning the Gallipoli Peninsula when it was needed
in 1915 has given rise, it is worth mentioning that at my suggestion
General Joffre sent one of his trusted staff-officers over from
Chantilly in November 1915 to put up with us for a few days,
particularly in connection with Macedonian problems. This
representative of the French General Staff was astonished to find that
we possessed numbers of detailed military reports concerning that part
of the world, with full information as to railways and communications,
and he was most complimentary on the subject. "Your England is an
island, my general," he remarked to me; "you have not had the eastern
frontier always to think of like France. How could we devote attention
to Macedonia?" It was not here a question of reconnaissance work or of
costly backstairs methods in a carefully watched fortified area of
prime strategical significance like the environs of the Hellespont.
Getting information about Macedonia had merely been a matter of
sending out experienced military observers to look about them and to
report.

When I left the General Staff at the War Office at the end of the
year, the position of affairs at Salonika was a thoroughly
unsatisfactory one, although the General Staff could fairly claim that
for this it was not responsible. A great Allied army was collected in
this quarter, inert and virtually out of the game. Our antagonists had
very wisely abandoned all idea of attacking, and of thereby justifying
the existence of, that great Allied army. The Bulgars had, with some
assistance from German and Austro-Hungarian troops, secured possession
of the mountainous region of the Balkans; and the Central Powers had
thus acquired just that same advantageous strategical and tactical
position on the Macedonian Front as they had for a year and a half
been enjoying on the Italian borders--the advantageous position of
having roped in Nature as a complaisant ally. The Entente had had an
uncommonly difficult hand to play in the Near East, but, as things
turned out, the Governments concerned had played it about as badly as
was feasible.

Except in the matter of equipping the Greek forces at a very much
later date, I was not directly concerned in what followed for weary
months on the Salonika Front. During the few weeks when I was acting
temporarily as Deputy C.I.G.S. in 1917, things happened to be pretty
well at a standstill in Macedonia, except that just at that time one
British division was transferred from that theatre to Palestine, where
there was some prospect of doing something. I remained in touch with
the General Staff, however, until the end of the war, and throughout
was to a great extent behind the scenes.

Only one valid military excuse can be put forward for imprisoning a
great field army for three years in the Salonika area, a plan to which
the General Staff was consistently opposed from the outset. It enabled
our side to employ some 150,000 Serbian and Greek troops, whom it
might have been difficult to turn to good account elsewhere; at the
very end the Greek contingents were, moreover, being substantially
increased. In what was to a great extent a war of attrition this was a
point of some importance. But that great field army was for all
practical purposes immobilized for the whole of the three years. It
was immobilized partly by inferior bodies of troops--mainly Bulgarian,
whom the German Great General Staff would have found it hard to
utilize in other theatres. It was immobilized partly by having before
it a wide zone of rugged uplands which were in occupation of the
enemy, and which forbade the employment of masses of men. That great
field army never at any time pulled its weight, and its presence in
Macedonia threw a severe and unwarranted strain upon our naval
resources owing to the difficulty of safeguarding its communications
against submarines in a water area exceptionally favourable for the
operations of such craft.

At the end of the three years that great field army did carry out a
remarkably successful offensive, in which the Serbs played a gallant
and prominent part. But, without wishing to disparage the fine work
performed by the various contingents in that offensive of September
1918--British, French, Italian, Serb and Greek--the fact remains that
the Bulgars were defeated not in Macedonia but in Picardy and Artois.
Exhausted by years of hostilities--they had been at it since
1912--they knew that the game was up before the offensive ever
started, knew that their side had lost the war, knew that there was no
hope of succour from Germany. Considering the hopelessness of the
situation from the point of view of the Central Powers, it is
surprising that the Sofia Executive did not throw up the sponge at a
somewhat earner date.

The Macedonian side-show is a typical example of the kind of side-show
which cannot be justified from the broad point of view of military
policy. In the next chapter a number of other side-shows which had
their place in the Great War will be touched upon. In it the fact will
be pointed out that side-shows are sometimes unavoidable, and it will
be suggested that most of those on which the British Government
embarked between 1914 and the end of the war were justifiable, even
when they were not absolutely unavoidable.



CHAPTER IX

OTHER SIDE-SHOWS

     Three categories of side-shows -- The Jackson Committee -- The
     Admiralty's attitude -- The Pacific, Duala, Tanga, Dar-es-Salaam,
     Oceania, the Wireless Stations -- Kiao Chao -- The Shatt-el-Arab
     -- Egypt -- Question whether the Australasian forces ought to
     have been kept for the East -- The East African operations -- Our
     lack of preparation for a campaign in this quarter -- Something
     wrong -- My own visit to Tanga and Dar-es-Salaam in 1908 -- The
     bad start of the campaign -- Question of utilizing South African
     troops to restore the situation -- How this was managed --
     Reasons why this was a justifiable side-show -- Mesopotamia --
     The War Office ought to have interfered -- The question of an
     advance on Baghdad by General Townshend suddenly referred to the
     General Staff -- Our mistake -- The question of Egyptian defence
     in the latter part of 1915 -- The Alexandretta project -- A later
     Alexandretta project propounded by the War Cabinet in 1917 -- Its
     absurdity -- The amateur strategist on the war-path -- The
     Palestine campaign of 1918 carried out almost entirely by troops
     not required on the Western Front, and therefore a legitimate
     side-show -- The same principle to some extent holds good with
     regard to the conquest of Mesopotamia -- The Downing Street
     project to substitute Sir W. Robertson for Sir C. Monro, a
     miss-fire.


"There must have been a baker's dozen of them," writes Lord Fisher in
his _Memories_ in reference to what he calls the "wild-cat
expeditions" on which troops were engaged while he was First Sea Lord
in 1914-15. There were a baker's dozen of them, and more, if the
occupation by Australasian contingents of certain islands in the
Indian Archipelago and the Pacific are included. But a correct
appreciation of the merits and of the demerits of our numerous
side-shows of those and later days is not covered by ejaculatory
generalizations. Some of the very greatest of soldiers--Marlborough,
Frederick the Great, Napoleon, and Wellington--all countenanced
side-shows that were kept within limits.

The truth about side-shows is that they may be divided up roughly into
three categories: (1) The necessary, (2) the excusable, (3) the
unjustifiable and mischievous. But there is no sharp dividing-line
between the three categories. Of those for which we made ourselves
responsible in the Great War, the majority undoubtedly come within the
first category. Most of the remainder may, upon the whole, be classed
as excusable. Unfortunately the small number which come under the
third heading were just those which absorbed the greatest military
effort, and which were the only ones that really reckoned as vital
factors in influencing the course of the conflict as a whole. Amongst
the necessary and unavoidable side-shows were those which were
undertaken, at all events in the first instance, in the interests of
sea power. Amongst the side-shows which may be regarded as
justifiable, although not unavoidable, may be mentioned the
continuation of the Cameroons operations after the taking of Duala,
the continuation of the operations in "German East" after the capture
of Tanga and Dar-es-Salaam, and the continuation of the operations in
"German South-West" after the great wireless station had been dealt
with; in each of these cases the forces and resources of various kinds
absorbed were, for various reasons, of no great relative importance,
and the conquest of the Boche territories involved was desirable. Two
unjustifiable side-shows have already been discussed, the Dardanelles
and Salonika; another that comes within this third category was
Mesopotamia subsequent to the securing of the Shatt-el-Arab and the
Karun oil-fields, and yet another is represented by the excessive
resources which were devoted to Palestine operations during certain
periods of the war.

A special interdepartmental committee, an offshoot of the Committee of
Imperial Defence, was set up on the outbreak of the war, virtually as
an expansion of the already existing Colonial Defence Committee. By a
stroke of good fortune, its chairman was Admiral Sir Henry Jackson,
who was attached to the Admiralty for special service at the time; the
Colonial Office and the India Office, as well as the Admiralty were
represented on it, and I was the War Office delegate. It was on the
recommendations of this body that the operations against Togoland, the
Cameroons, and "German East" were initiated, that every encouragement
was given to the projects set on foot by the Australasian Governments
for the conquest of German New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago,
Samoa, and other localities in Oceania, and that similar encouragement
was given to the Union Government of South Africa in respect to its
plans for wresting "German South-West" out of the hands of its
possessors and oppressors. The Admiralty attached extreme importance
to Duala, and considerable importance to Dar-es-Salaam and Tanga, as
also to some of the ports in Oceania owing to the presence of Von
Spee's squadron of swift cruisers in the Pacific. They likewise were
anxious that the German wireless stations of great range and power in
Togoland, the Cameroons, "German South-West," and "German East" should
be brought to nought.

Then there was also Kiao Chao. The capture of that enemy naval
stronghold in the Far East was regarded as eminently desirable, and
although the Japanese were ready and willing to take the thing on
alone it seemed expedient that we should contribute a small contingent
to assist, very much on the same principle as the French and Italians
liked to have small contingents fighting under the orders of General
Allenby during his triumphant operations in Palestine and Syria. Our
military garrisons at Tientsin and Hong-Kong could easily find a
couple of battalions, and from our British point of view this
contribution may be set down as coming within the category of an
excusable, if not an unavoidable, side-show. Apart from East Africa,
none of these minor sets of operations absorbed more than
insignificant military forces, which in most cases were composed
largely of Colonial coloured troops who were hardly fitted for
fighting on the Western Front at that stage. In almost all of them,
except "German East" and Kiao Chao, the object had been achieved
within a few weeks of the outbreak of hostilities, and even the
bitterest foes of the side-show in the abstract will admit that the
end justified the means.

The question of an expedition to the Shatt-el-Arab was first raised by
the India Office. Such an undertaking could indeed hardly suggest
itself during the first few weeks of the war, seeing that the Ottoman
Empire did not become involved until some weeks had elapsed. The
object of this Mesopotamia side-show, which ultimately developed into
one of the greatest campaigns ever undertaken by a European Power in a
region beyond the seas, was, to start with, simply the seizure of the
water-way for the length that this is navigable by ocean-going ships
together with the port of Basrah, and to secure the safety of the
oil-fields of the Karun. The operation incidentally could hardly fail
to exercise considerable political effect around the Persian Gulf,
which was all to the good, and the project did not call for the
employment of a large force to effect the purpose that was in view at
the start. Most military authorities would surely class this as a
thoroughly justifiable, if perhaps not an absolutely necessary,
side-show.

Then, thrusting itself into prominence about the same time as the
Shatt-el-Arab affair developed, came the question of Egypt. The Turks
would assuredly contrive a stroke at the Khedive's dominions from the
side of the Isthmus of Suez sooner or later, the attitude of the
tribes in the vast regions to the west of the Nile valley could not
but give grounds for some anxiety, and there was a fair chance of
effervescence within the Nile Delta itself. Maintaining the security
of Egypt was hardly more a side-show than was the provision of
garrisons for India; but the defence of Egypt at a later stage more or
less merged into offensive operations directed against Palestine. The
question of giving that defence a somewhat active form by undertaking
expeditionary enterprises in the direction of the Gulf of Alexandretta
came to be considered quite early in the war, as has already been
mentioned in Chapter III. But during the first six months or so Egypt
only in reality absorbed military resources which for various reasons
could not appropriately have been utilized elsewhere. The British
regulars were withdrawn from Cairo and Khartum and helped to form
divisions for the Western Front, considerable bodies of Native Indian
troops were transported to Suez from Bombay and Kurrachee, the East
Lancashire Territorial Division was sent out from home, and the newly
constituted contingents from the Antipodes secured a temporary
resting-place in a region which climatically was particularly well
suited for their purpose. Anxiety as to Egypt was as a matter of fact
in great measure allayed in January 1915, owing to the Osmanlis
pressing forward to the Suez Canal, sustaining a severe rebuff near
its banks at the hands of the defending force, and disappearing
eastwards as a beaten and disorganized rabble.

The Palestine operations will be touched upon later; but there is a
subject in connection with the contingents from the Antipodes,
referred to above, which, although it has nothing to do with the
principle of side-shows in the abstract, may perhaps not
inappropriately be discussed here. Was it right ever to have employed
those contingents on the Western Front, as they were employed from an
early date in 1916 onwards to the end of the struggle? The result of
their being so disposed of was that, covering a space of nearly three
years, troops from the United Kingdom were perpetually passing
eastwards through the Mediterranean while Australasian troops were
perpetually passing westwards through the Mediterranean. Military
forces belonging to the one belligerent Empire were, in fact, crossing
each other at sea. This involved an avoidable absorption of
ship-tonnage, it threw an avoidable strain upon the naval forces of
the Entente, and it imposed an avoidable period of inaction upon the
troops concerned. Look upon the Anzacs simply as counters and upon the
Great War as a _Kriegspiel_, and such procedure becomes ridiculous.
Whatever there is to be said for and against the Dardanelles,
Salonika, Palestine, and Mesopotamia side-shows, they did undoubtedly
absorb military forces in excess of those which Australia and New
Zealand placed in the field, and they provided active work in eastern
regions far nearer to the Antipodes than was the Western Front.

This, however, entirely ignores sentiment, and sentiment can never
justly nor safely be ignored in military matters. The Anzacs would
have bitterly resented being relegated to theatres, of secondary
importance so to speak. Their Governments would have protested had
such a thing been even hinted at, and they would have protested in
very forcible terms. No other course than that actually followed was
in reality practicable nor, as far as I know, ever suggested. As a
matter of fact, however, none of the Australasian mounted troops,
apart from some quite minor exceptions, ever did proceed west of the
Aegean. After performing brilliant service in the Gallipoli Peninsula
acting as foot soldiers, the Anzac Horse spent the last three years of
the war in Egypt, where they seized and made the most of opportunities
for gaining distinction under General Allenby such as would never have
been presented to them in France.

I was a good deal concerned in the operations in East Africa during
the first year and a half of the war, a period of scanty progress and
of regrettable misadventures. We enjoyed the advantage, when this
question came before Admiral Jackson's committee, of having
Lieut.-Colonel (now Major-General Sir A. R.) Hoskins present, who at
the time was Inspector-General of the King's African Rifles and was
consequently well acquainted with our own territories in that part of
the world. From the outset, Hoskins was disinclined to regard
operations in this quarter as a sort of picnic, and the event proved
that he was right. It was, however, settled that the whole business
should be handed over in the main to India to carry out, and that the
commander and staff for the contemplated offensive, as well as the
reinforcements needed for the purpose, should come across the Indian
Ocean from Bombay.

At a very early stage it became apparent that our information
concerning the enemy districts nearest to the frontier between German
territory and British East Africa was defective, while information as
to the districts on our own side was not all that might be wished, and
I gathered from Hoskins at the time (and also later on from Colonel G.
Thesiger, Hoskins' predecessor, who brought home his battalion of the
Rifle Brigade from India during the winter of 1914-15 and who was
killed when commanding a division at Loos in the autumn of 1915) that
the prosecution of active intelligence work had received little
encouragement from home during their terms of office. That is the
worst of a corps like the King's African Rifles being under the
Colonial Office instead of under the War Office, although there are
adequate reasons for that arrangement; but I cannot help thinking that
if the General Staff had pressed the matter, not much difficulty would
have been encountered in altering the Colonial Office's point of view,
and that both no doubt were to blame. It may also be remarked
incidentally that the Colonial Office probably has no secret service
funds at its disposal. Still, be that as it may, there was something
amiss.

Here we were, with British soil actually in contact with an extensive
province in the hands of a potential enemy and known to be garrisoned
by a considerable body of native troops. Everything pointed to the
need for extensive reconnaissance work in the borderland districts
with a view to possible eventualities. Numbers of active, intelligent,
and adventurous young British officers, admirably fitted for
acquiring military information, were stationed on our side of the
frontier. And yet when the storm broke we were unprepared to meet it.
We had plans worked out in the utmost detail for depositing the
Expeditionary Force at its concentration points in French territory.
Our naval policy was to all intents and purposes framed with a German
war as its ultimate goal. The probability of a conflict with the
Boches had for some years past virtually governed our military policy.
But in East Africa we were in a measure caught napping.

There had been lack of foresight. I had been guilty of this myself, so
that I have the less hesitation in referring to it; for I had been at
both Tanga and Dar-es-Salaam early in 1908. At the first-named port
our ship only spent a few hours, so that any kind of reconnaissance
work would have been out of the question. But we lay for four days on
end in Dar-es-Salaam harbour, and yet it never occurred to me to
examine the place and its immediate surroundings from the point of
view of possible attack upon it in the future--this, moreover, after
having just given over charge of the strategical section in the War
Office. Even allowing for the fact that war with Germany was not
looming ahead to the same extent in 1908 as it was from 1909 onwards,
there was surely something wrong on that occasion.

The start that was made in East Africa in 1914 can only be described
as deplorable. Following a custom which to my mind is more honoured in
the breach than in the observance, the mortifying results of the
attempted maritime descent upon Tanga which ushered in the
hostilities, were for a long time kept concealed from the public. That
reverse constituted a grave set-back--a set-back on a small scale
perhaps, but as decided a one as we met with during the war. Our
troops not only lost heavily in casualties, but they also suffered
appreciably in _moral_. For months subsequent to that untoward event
we were virtually on the defensive in this theatre of war, although we
unquestionably enjoyed the advantage in actual numbers, and although
the maritime communications were open to our side and closed to that
of the enemy. The enemy enjoyed such initiative as there was. Bodies
of hostile troops used to cross the border from time to time and
inflict unpleasant pin-pricks upon us. The situation was an eminently
unsatisfactory one, but what was to be done?

That "German East" was just the very place to utilize South African
troops in, became apparent at a comparatively early stage of the
proceedings. Even before General Botha and his men had completed his
conquest of "German South-West," one had already begun to dream dreams
of these same forces, or their equivalent, coming to the rescue on the
farther side of the Dark Continent, and of their getting our Indian
and native African contingents, with their small nucleus of British
regulars, out of the scrape that they were in. Being in constant
communication with General C. W. Thomson, who was in command of the
exiguous body of British soldiers left at the Cape, I was able to
gauge the local feeling out there fairly correctly, and became
convinced that we should be able to rely on securing a really
high-class contingent of improvised units for "German East" out of
South Africa, of units composed of tough, self-reliant, experienced
fighting men who might not be disposed to undertake service on the
Western Front. The special character of the theatre of war in East
Africa, the nature of the fighting which its topography imposed on the
contending sides, its climate, its prospects for the settler, and its
geographical position, were all such as to appeal to the dwellers on
the veldt. But when the subject was broached once or twice to Lord K.
during the summer of 1915 he would have nothing to do with it. Once
bitten twice shy. The War Minister looked on side-shows with no kindly
eye. Nor could he be persuaded that this was one which would only be
absorbing resources that could hardly be made applicable to other
quarters.

Mr. Bonar Law, who was then Colonial Minister, was very anxious to
have the military situation in this part of the world cleared up, and
I rather took advantage of Lord K.'s absence in the Near East in
November to bring the whole thing to a head. Sir A. Murray quite
agreed that South Africa ought to be invited to step in and help. So
it came about that the business was practically settled by the time
that the Chief came back from the Dardanelles, and although he was by
no means enthusiastic, he accepted the situation and he chose Sir H.
Smith-Dorrien for the command. Whether this was, or was not, a
justifiable side-show is no doubt a matter of opinion. But a very
large proportion of the troops who eventually conquered "German East"
under Generals Smuts, Hoskins and Van Deventer would scarcely have
been available for effective operations in any other theatre, and the
demands in respect to artillery, aircraft, and so forth were almost
negligible as compared to the resources that were in being even so
early as the winter of 1915-16. Perhaps the most powerful arguments
that could be brought forward against the offensive campaign that was
initiated by General Smuts in German East Africa were its cost and the
amount of ship-tonnage that it absorbed. The primary object for which
operations in this region were undertaken, the capture of Tanga and
Dar-es-Salaam so as to deprive the enemy of their use for naval
purposes, had rather dropped out of consideration owing to the seas
having been cleared of enemy non-diving craft in the meantime.

The Mesopotamian operations during the first year and a half were
conducted entirely by the India Office and India, and, up till after
Sir W. Robertson had become C.I.G.S., we had no direct responsibility
in connection with them in the War Office. I had a subsection that
dealt entirely with Indian matters; this kept watch, noted the
telegrams, reports, and so forth, dealing with what was going on on
the Shatt-el-Arab and beyond, and it could at any moment supply me
with general information as to the situation. From time to time I used
to ask how the operations were progressing, and, without ever going
carefully into the matter, was disposed to look somewhat askance at
the procedure that was being adopted of continually pressing forward
from place to place--like the hill-climber who on reaching one crest
ever feels himself drawn on to gain the next--far beyond the zone
which had in the first instance been regarded as the objective of the
Expeditionary Force. The meteor of conquest appeared to be alluring
"D" Force too far. Without examining the position of affairs closely,
it was obvious that the farther our troops proceeded up the Tigris the
longer became their line of communications, the shorter became that of
the Turks, and the greater must inevitably become the contingents put
in the field by our side. What had started as a limited-liability and
warrantable side-show was somehow imperceptibly developing into a
really serious campaign in a remote region.

Looking back upon those months in the light of later experience, the
attitude which one felt disposed to assume, the attitude that as this
was an India Office business with which the War Office had nothing to
do it was their funeral, was a mistaken one. The War Office could not,
of course, butt in unceremoniously. But Lord Kitchener was a member of
the Government in an exceptionally powerful position in all things
connected with the war, and had one represented one's doubts to him,
he would certainly have gone into the question and might have taken up
a strong line. I, however, have no recollection of ever speaking to
him on the subject of Mesopotamia during the period when "D" Force was
working right up into Irak, moving first to Amarah, then to El Gharbi,
and then on to Kut, thus involving the Empire in a regular offensive
campaign on an ambitious scale in the cradle of the world.

Then came that farther advance of General Townshend's from Kut to
Azizieh, the project for an advance right up to Baghdad assumed shape
at Army Headquarters on the Tigris, in Simla, and at the India Office,
and it was then that the General Staff, now with Sir A. Murray in
charge, was suddenly called upon to give a considered opinion
concerning this ambitious scheme for the information of the War
Council. Now it is an interesting fact that just at that very same
time we were called upon to give a considered opinion on the subject
of the best plan of rendering Egypt secure, and that this necessarily
raised the question whether the plan should favour an active form of
defence involving an expedition to Alexandretta or thereabouts, or
whether it should take a more passive form of holding positions away
back near the Suez Canal. The two Memoranda were as a matter of fact
printed in the one secret document.

As regards Alexandretta we had no doubts whatever, although, as
already mentioned on p. 79, Lord K. and the experts in connection with
Egypt favoured operations in that direction. We made up our minds
without the slightest difficulty, and pronounced dead against a
forward policy of that kind at such a time. But in reference to
Baghdad we all of us, I think, felt undecided and in a quandary.
Unacquainted with General Townshend's views, assuming that the river
transport upon which military operations up-Tigris necessarily hinged
was in a reasonably efficient condition, ignorant of the obstacles
which forbade a prompt start from Azizieh, we pictured to ourselves a
bound forward at a very early date. Actually the advance did not
materialize for more than a month, and in the meantime the Turks were
gathering reinforcements apace. The city might have been occupied had
General Townshend been able to push forward at once; for an army
(favoured, it is true, by incomparably more effectual administrative
arrangements) did sixteen months later reach the place within seven
days of quitting Azizieh, although strongly opposed. But so exiguous
an expeditionary force could not have maintained itself in that
isolated situation in face of swelling hostile numbers. In falling
back to his advanced base its leader would have been faced with
nearly double the distance to cover that he compassed so successfully
in his retreat from Ctesiphon. The little army would almost certainly
have been cornered and compelled for lack of supplies to surrender in
some advanced position in Irak five months earlier than, as it turned
out, Kut hauled down the flag.

But, be that as it may, we made ourselves to some extent responsible
for the disaster which occurred to General Townshend's force, owing to
our not taking a decided line on the subject and not obeying the
elementary principle that resources must not in war be wasted upon
unnecessary subsidiary enterprises. Whether it was or was not feasible
to get to Baghdad at the time was a matter of some uncertainty. But
that the whole business of all this pouring of troops into Mesopotamia
was fundamentally unsound scarcely admitted of dispute. That ought to
have determined our attitude on the minor Baghdad point.

Egypt gave rise to little anxiety during the spring and summer of 1915
in consequence of the signal discomfiture which the Turks had suffered
on the Canal early in the year; the arid tract known as the Sinai
desert indeed provided a satisfactory defence in itself during the dry
months. But as autumn approached, the prospect of Ottoman efforts
against the Nile Delta had to be taken into serious consideration, the
more so that neither the Dardanelles Committee nor the War Council
which took its place could disguise from themselves that the
abandonment of the Dardanelles enterprise was at least on the cards,
and that this would liberate Osmanli forces for efforts in other
directions. There had been a school of thought in Egypt all along that
the best defence of that region against Turkish invasion was by
undertaking operations on the Syrian or Palestine coast, based on the
Gulf of Iskanderun for preference, but possibly based on Beirut or
Haifa. As the situation in the Near East grew rapidly worse during
September, the War Council began to dream of diversions in new
directions, quite apart from the Gallipoli Peninsula and Salonika,
and some of them pitched upon the shores of the Gulf of Iskanderun,
the strategical importance of which was unquestionable. A force landed
in that quarter would give the enemy something to think about, would
afford excellent protection to Egypt, and would indirectly assist our
troops, which had been gradually penetrating along the Tigris right up
into Mesopotamia.

On this project the General Staff was called upon to report, as
already mentioned in Chapter IV, and as stated above, and the General
Staff rejected the project without hesitation. This was a very
different scheme from that which had been regarded with approval in
the winter of 1914-15. Then the enemy resources in these environs had
been insignificant, the Turkish communications leading thither had
still been interrupted by the Taurus Mountains, and there had been no
U-boats in the Mediterranean. Now the enemy was fully prepared in this
quarter and would be on the look-out for our troops, the tunnels
through the Taurus had been completed, and warships and transports
could not possibly have lain moored in the roadstead of Alexandretta
for fear of submarines. The landing would have had to take place in
the inner portion of the Gulf of Iskanderun, Ayas Bay, where there
were no facilities, where the surroundings were unhealthy, and where
it would be particularly easy for the Turks to put up a stolid
resistance. Our view was that for any operation of this kind to be
initiated with reasonable safety, a very large body of troops would be
necessary, that as far as Egypt was concerned the Nile Delta could be
rendered absolutely secure with a much smaller expenditure of force,
and that the inevitable result of embarking on a campaign in this new
region would be to withdraw yet more of the Entente fighting resources
from the main theatre of war in France. It would have been a side-show
for which very little could be said and the objections to which seemed
to us manifest and overwhelming. The War Council took our advice and
dropped the scheme, although Lord Kitchener, who was out in the
Aegean, favoured it. Any anxiety that prevailed as to Egypt settled
itself shortly afterwards owing to the Gallipoli troops, so skilfully
withdrawn from Anzac, Suvla and Helles, all assembling in the Nile
Delta, where they were refitted and obtained some rest after their
terribly arduous campaign in the Thracian Chersonese. This practically
synchronized with the time of my leaving the War Office for the time
being and proceeding to Russia.

As will be mentioned in Chapter XIV., one heard more about
Alexandretta while out in that country. I, moreover, became indirectly
concerned in that same old question again at a considerably later
date. For, early in October 1917, the War Cabinet hit upon a great
notion. On the close of the Flanders operations a portion of Sir D.
Haig's forces were to be switched thither to succour Generals Allenby
and Marshall in their respective campaigns, and were to be switched
back again so as to be on hand for the opening of active work on the
Western Front at the beginning of March 1918--a three months'
excursion. This scheme seems to have been evolved quite _au grand
sérieux_ and not as a joke. At all events, a conference (which I was
called in to attend as knowing more about the Dardanelles business
from the War Office end than anybody else) assembled in the Chief of
the Imperial General Staff's room one Sunday morning--the First Sea
Lord and the Deputy First Sea Lord with subordinates, together with
General Horne who happened to be over on leave from his First Army,
and prominent members of the General Staff--and we gravely debated the
idiotic project.

Nobody but a lunatic would, after Gallipoli experiences, undertake
serious land operations in the Alexandretta region with less than six
divisions. To ship six divisions absorbs a million tons. There were
United States troops at this time unable to cross the Atlantic for
want of tonnage, and, allowing for disembarkation difficulties on the
Syrian coast, two soldiers or animals or vehicles could be transported
from America to French or English ports for every one soldier or
animal or vehicle that could be shifted from Marseilles or Toulon to
the War Cabinet's fresh theatre of operations, given the same amount
of shipping. Our Italian allies were in sore straits over coal for
munitions and transportation purposes, simply because sufficient
tonnage could not be placed at their disposal. Our own food supplies
were causing anxiety, and the maintenance of the forces at Salonika
afforded constant proof of the insecurity of the Mediterranean as a
sea route. But fatuous diversion of shipping represented quite a minor
objection to this opera-bouffe proposal. For, allowing for railing
troops from the Western Front to the Côte Azure and embarking them,
and for the inevitable delays in landing a force of all arms on a
beach with improvised piers, the troops at the head of the hunt would
already have to be re-embarking in Ayas Bay by the time that those at
the tail of the hunt came to be emptied out on the shores of the Gulf
of Iskanderun; otherwise the wanderers would miss the venue on the
Western Front.

Had this been suggested by a brand-new Ministry--a Labour Cabinet,
say, reviewing the military situation at its very first
meeting--nobody could reasonably have complained. People quite new to
the game naturally enough overlook practical questions connected with
moving troops by land and sea, and do not realize that those questions
govern the whole business. Any third-form boy, given a map of
Turkey-in-Asia and told of campaigns in Palestine, and Mesopotamia,
and Armenia, and of the bulk of enemy resources being found about
Constantinople and in Anatolia, who did not instantly perceive how
nice it would be to dump an army down at Alexandretta, would, it is
earnestly to be hoped, be sent up to have his dormant intelligence
awakened by outward applications according to plan. Quite
knowledgeable and well-educated people call this sort of thing
"strategy," and so in a sense it is--it is strategy in the same sense
as the multiplication table is mathematics. If you don't know that two
added to two makes four, and divided by two makes one, the integral
calculus and functional equations will defeat you; if it has never
occurred to you that by throwing your army, or part of it, across the
route that your opponent gets his food and his ammunition and his
reinforcements by you will cause him inconvenience, then your name is
not likely to be handed down to posterity with those of the Great
Captains. But the War Cabinet of October 1917 contained personages of
light and leading who had been immersed up to the neck in the conduct
of hostilities ever since early in 1915.

The Royal Navy could always be trusted to play the game on these
occasions. When you cannot get your own way in the army, you beslaver
the local martial Esculapius with soft words and prevail upon him to
back you up. "Oh, if the medical authorities pronounce it necessary,"
thereupon declare the Solons up top who have been sticking their toes
in, "it's of course got to be done." Similarly, when the amateur
strategist gets out of hand, you appeal to the sailors to save the
situation. "Just look at what these owls are after now," you say;
"they'll upset the coach before they've done with it. _You_ won't be
able to do your share in the business, and we----" "Not do our share
in the business? Why not? Of course we----" "Yes, yes, I know that;
but you really must help us. One of those unintelligible masterpieces
of yours all about prostitution of sea-power, and periscopes and that
sort of poppy-cock with which you always know how to bluff the
lubbers." "Well, we'll see what we can do"--and the extinguisher is
dexterously and effectually applied. Co-operation between the two
great fighting services is the master-key opening every impeditive
doorway on the path to victory.

The operations which brought about the occupation of Palestine and
Syria constituted a side-show on a very important scale indeed, and
they at one period swallowed up contingents of British troops that
were somewhat badly needed on the Western Front, just as the Salonika
business did. Troops of that character, troops fit to throw against
the Hindenburg Line, however, represented quite an insignificant
proportion of the forces with which General Allenby achieved his
startling triumphs in the year 1918. The urgent need of increasing our
strength in France and Flanders during the winter of 1917-18 was fully
realized by the General Staff at the War Office, and efforts were made
to induce the War Cabinet to consent to withdraw some of the British
troops from Palestine. But nothing was done in the matter until after
the successful German offensive of March, when the enemy almost drove
a wedge through the Allies' front near Amiens. After that the bulk of
General Allenby's British infantry were taken from him and rushed off
to France, native troops from India which had been created by Sir C.
Monro since he had taken up the chief command there in 1916, together
with some veteran Indian companies from Mesopotamia, being sent in
their place. The brilliant offensive which carried our flag to
Damascus and on to Aleppo after utterly defeating the Turks was
executed with a soldiery of whom the greater part could be spared from
the decisive theatre. The conquering army was composed almost entirely
of mounted men for whom there was little scope in France, or of Indian
troops. Even had the results been infinitely less satisfactory to the
Entente in themselves than they actually were, a side-show run on such
lines was a perfectly legitimate undertaking.

The same principle to some extent holds good in respect to the
conquest of Mesopotamia by Sir S. Maude and Sir W. Marshall. The
troops which won such striking successes in that theatre of war
included a considerable proportion of units which would not have been
employed on the Western Front in any case. The army was to a large
extent a native Indian one, and latterly it included its quota of the
freshly organized units which General Monro had created. The fact
remains, however, that from April 1916 (when Kut fell) until the end
of the war, a considerable force of British white troops was
continuously locked up in this remote region, engaged upon what can
hardly be called a necessary side-show.

In connection with the remarkably successful efforts made by the
Commander-in-Chief in India to expand the local forces during the last
two years of the conflict, there is a matter which may be mentioned
here. That the victorious campaigns in Palestine and in Mesopotamia in
1917 and 1918 were in no small degree attributable, indirectly, to
what General Monro had accomplished by energy and administrative
capacity, is well known to all who were behind the scenes, and has
been cordially acknowledged by Lord Allenby and Sir W. Marshall.
Especially was this the case in Palestine in 1918, when brand-new
native Indian regiments took the place of British troops belatedly
summoned to the Western Front after our line had been broken at St.
Quentin. Nevertheless, a Downing Street intrigue was set on foot about
the end of April 1918 to substitute Sir W. Robertson for the commander
of the forces in India who had accomplished so much since taking over
charge.

Not that there was any desire to remove Sir C. Monro. The object of
the shuffle was simply to get Sir W. Robertson out of the country, in
view of the manner in which his warnings in connection with
strengthening our forces in France had been disregarded and of his
having proved to be right. Sir William would no doubt have made an
excellent Commander-in-Chief in India; but if ever there was an
example of ill-contrived swapping of horses while crossing a stream,
this precious plot would have provided the example had it been carried
into execution. There would have been a three months' interregnum
while the new chief was on his way out and was picking up the strings
after getting out--this in the middle of the final year of the war!
The best-laid plans of politicians, however, gang aft a-gley. Sir C.
Monro had stipulated, when reluctantly agreeing to give up command of
his army on the Western Front in the autumn of 1916 and to proceed to
Bombay, that this Indian appointment was to be a permanent one, and
not a temporary one such as all other appointments came to be during
the war. He did not feel disposed to fall in with the Downing Street
project when this was broached. Is it to be wondered at that military
men regard some of the personnel that is found in Government circles
with profound suspicion?



CHAPTER X

THE MUNITIONS QUESTION

     Mr. Asquith's Newcastle speech -- The mischief that it did -- The
     time that must elapse before any great expansion in output of
     munitions can begin to materialize -- The situation analogous to
     that of a building -- The Ministry of Munitions took, and was
     given, the credit for the expansion in output for the year
     subsequent to its creation, which was in reality the work of the
     War Office -- The Northcliffe Press stunt about shell shortage --
     Its misleading character -- Sir H. Dalziel's attack upon General
     von Donop in the House -- Mr. Lloyd George's reply -- A
     discreditable episode -- Misapprehension on the subject of the
     army's preparedness for war in respect to material --
     Misunderstanding as to the machine-gun position -- Lord French's
     attack upon the War Office with regard to munitions -- His
     responsibility for the lack of heavy artillery -- The matter
     taken up at the War Office before he ever raised it from G.H.Q.
     -- His responsibility for the absence of high-explosive shell for
     our field artillery -- A misconception, as to the rôle of the
     General Staff -- The serious difficulty that arose with regard to
     this ammunition owing to prematures -- The misstatements in
     "_1914_" as to the amount of artillery ammunition which was sent
     across France to the Dardanelles -- Exaggerated estimates by
     factories as to what they would be able to turn out -- Their
     estimates discounted as a result of later experiences -- The
     Munitions Ministry not confined to its proper job -- The incident
     of 400 Tanks -- Conclusion.


Who reads the platform addresses of political personages, even the
most eminent and the most plausible? Some people evidently do, or such
utterances would not fill the columns of our newspapers. If one had
ever felt tempted to peruse the reports of these harangues in the
piping times of peace, one assuredly had neither the inclination nor
yet the leisure to indulge in such practices during the early days of
the Great War. To skim off the cream of the morning's news while at
breakfast was about as much as a War Office mandarin could manage in
the way of reading the daily papers during that super-strenuous time.
One morning, however--it must have been the morning of the 22nd of
April 1915--I met an assistant with a journal in his hand, as I was
making my way along the corridor to my room in the War Office. "Seen
this what Squiff says about the shell, general?" he asked, handing me
the paper with his finger on the passage in the Prime Minister's
Newcastle speech, denying that there was an ammunition shortage.

The report of that discourse took one flat aback. For weeks past
letters from G.H.Q., as also the fervent representations made by
visitors over on duty or on leave from the front, had been harping
upon this question. Lord Kitchener had informed the House of Lords on
the 15th day of March that the supply of war material was "causing him
considerable anxiety." There was not the slightest doubt, even
allowing for the tendency of men exposed to nerve-racking experiences
or placed in positions of anxious responsibility to find fault, that
our army in France and Flanders was at a terrible disadvantage as
compared to that opposed to it in the matter of artillery ammunition.
The state of affairs was perfectly well known, not merely to the
personnel of batteries constantly restricted in respect to
expenditure, but also to the infantry and to other branches of the
service deprived of adequate gun support. Into the controversies and
recriminations which have taken place over the subject of how this
extraordinary statement came to be made at Newcastle, it is not
proposed to enter here. There is at all events no controversy as to
whether the statement was true or not, in substance and in fact. It is
common knowledge now, and it was indeed fairly common knowledge at the
time, that the statement was in the highest degree misleading. It did
a great deal of mischief amongst the troops in the war zone, and it
caused serious injury to those who were responsible for the provision
of munitions in this country.

A pronouncement of that kind, published as it was in all the
newspapers, was bound to arouse comment not merely at home, but also
amongst officers and men confronting the enemy between Dixmude and the
La Bassée Canal. These latter, who were only too well aware of the
realities of the case, resented such a misstatement of facts, and they
were also inclined to jump to the conclusion, not altogether
unnaturally, that the serious ammunition shortage, the crying need for
additional heavy ordnance, and so forth, were being deliberately
ignored by those responsible for supply at home. The inferiority of
our side in the field in respect to certain forms of munitions as
compared to the enemy, came to be attributed to indifference and to
mismanagement on the part of the Master-General of the Ordnance's
department and of Lord Kitchener. Even the majority of artillery
officers had not the slightest conception of what an expansion of
output of munitions on a huge scale involved. Still less were staff
officers in general and officers of other branches of the service in a
position to interpret the situation correctly. They did not realize
that before you can bring about any substantial increase of production
in respect to shell, or fuses, or rifles, or machine-guns, or
howitzers, you have to provide the machinery with which the particular
form of war material is to be manufactured, and that you probably have
to fashion some extensive structure to house that machinery in. It
takes months before any tangible result can be obtained, the number of
months to elapse varying according to the nature of the goods.

Dwellers in great cities will often note what happens when some
ancient building has been demolished by the house-breaker. The site is
concealed by an opaque hoarding. For months, even sometimes for years,
nothing seems to follow. The passer-by who happens to get an
opportunity of peeping in when some gate is opened to let out a cart
full of debris, only sees a vast crater at the bottom of which men,
like ants, are scurrying about with barrows or are delving in the
earth. All the time that the ground is being cleared and that the
foundations are being laid, those out in the street know nothing of
what is going on, and they wonder why some effort is not made to
utilize the vacant space for building purposes. Then one day, quite
unexpectedly, scaffolding begins to rear its head. A few weeks later
bricklayers and their work begin to show above the hoarding; and from
that moment things at last are obviously on the move. The edifice
grows from day to day. Within quite a short space of time workmen are
already putting on the roof. Then down comes the scaffolding, windows
are put in, final touches are given to the interior, and, within what
seems to be no time at all from the day when the scaffolding first was
seen, the building is ready for occupation. So it is with the
manufacture of munitions--experience in the United States in
connection with output for us and also in connection with output for
Russia, was exactly the same as in the United Kingdom in this respect.
An interminable time seems to elapse before the output begins; but
once it has fairly started it grows by leaps and bounds.

At the time of the Newcastle oration, and for some months
subsequently, the work of expansion on a colossal scale which the
Master-General of the Ordnance had undertaken was still, speaking
generally, rather on the footing of the building of which the
foundations are only beginning to be laid even if the excavations have
been completed and the debris has been cleared away. There was as yet
comparatively little to show. The results did not begin to make
themselves apparent until a date when the Ministry of Munitions had
already come into being some time. That Department of State gained the
benefit. Its Chief took the credit for work in connection with which
it had for all practical purposes no responsibility beyond that of
issuing what predecessors had arranged for. The full product of the
contracts which the Master-General of the Ordnance had placed, of the
development he had given to existing Government establishments, and of
the setting up of entirely new ones by him, with Lord Kitchener ever
using his driving power and his fertility of resource in support, only
materialized in the winter of 1915-16, at a stage when the Ministry of
Munitions had been already full six months in existence.

If the army in general failed to understand the position, it is hardly
to be wondered at that Parliament and the less well-informed section
of the Press should not understand the position, and that the public
should have been deceived. Very shortly after the Newcastle speech,
and no doubt largely in consequence of it, the Northcliffe Press stunt
of May 1915 on the subject of shell shortage was initiated. Up to a
certain point that stunt was not only fully justified, but was
actually advantageous to the country. It made the nation acquainted
with the fact that our troops were suffering severely from
insufficiency of munitions. It stirred the community up, and that in
itself was an excellent thing. But it succeeded somehow at the same
time in conveying the impression that this condition of affairs was
due to neglect, and in consequence it misled public opinion and did
grave injustice. We must assume that, owing to fundamental ignorance
of the problems involved, to a neglect to keep touch with industrial
conditions, and to lack of acquaintance with the technicalities of
munitions manufacture, these newspapers (which usually contrive to be
extremely well informed, thanks to the great financial resources at
their back) were totally unaware that a sudden expansion of output on
a great scale was an impossibility; to suggest that this aspect of the
problem was deliberately suppressed would be highly improper. The
Northcliffe Press had also maybe failed to become acquainted with the
great increase that had taken place in the forces at the front, as
compared to the strength of the original Expeditionary Force which had
provided the basis of calculation for munitions in pre-war days, an
increase for which there was no counterpart in the armies of our
Allies or of our enemies. Or the effect that this must have in
accentuating munitions shortage may have been overlooked, obvious as
it was. Be that as it may, the country readily accepted the story as
it stood, and was in consequence grievously misinformed as to the
merits of the question. The real truth has only leaked out since the
cessation of hostilities, and it is not generally known now.[6]

                   [Footnote 6: So late as the 21st of April 1920 _The
                   Times_ included the following passage in a leading
                   article: "Every gunner officer on the Western Front
                   during the winter of 1914-15 knows that there was a
                   grave and calamitous deficiency of shells, and that
                   no satisfactory attempt was made to rectify it
                   until the matter was exposed in _The Times_."
                   Dragging in the "gunner officer" at the front (who
                   could not possibly tell what steps were being taken
                   to rectify the deficiency) does not alter the fact
                   that this passage amounts to an accusation that no
                   satisfactory attempt was made to rectify the
                   deficiency until after the Northcliffe Press stunt.
                   _The Times_ may have been so ill-informed as to the
                   actual facts in 1915 as to suppose that this was
                   true. _The Times_ cannot have been so ill-informed
                   as to the actual facts in 1920 as to suppose that
                   it was true.]

After the Government had decided to create a Munitions Ministry with
Mr. Lloyd George at its head, one of the first incidents that occurred
was an unsavoury one. In the course of the discussions in the House of
Commons over the Bill setting up this new Department of State, Sir H.
Dalziel, a newspaper proprietor and a politician of long standing,
delivered on the 1st of July a violent diatribe directed against Sir
S. von Donop, the Master-General of the Ordnance. The honourable
member no doubt quite honestly believed that the lack of munitions was
due to neglect on the part of the War Office since the beginning of
the war. It is clear that he was totally unqualified to express an
opinion on the subject, and that he was ignorant of the manufacturing
aspects of the problem. He had heard stories of mistakes made here and
there, such as was inevitable at a time of tremendous stress. He
probably had not the slightest conception that the primary cause of
the shell shortage was the neglect of the Government of pre-war days
(which had recognized his party services by conferring on him the
dignity of a Privy-Councillorship) to give support to the
establishments for manufacturing armaments that existed in the
country. It is not with his performance on this occasion that one
feels a disposition to quarrel, but with that of the newly created
Minister of Munitions.

Mr. Lloyd George could not plead ignorance of the facts. He had been
installed for a month or so. He must have known that it had been
totally impossible to produce, within ten months of the outbreak of
the war, the munitions that were required for an army in the field
three or four times greater than had ever been thought of prior to
mobilization.[7] He had actually given some pertinent information with
regard to manufacturing difficulties when he was introducing the bill,
which clearly demonstrated that he had grasped the general principles
governing the problem of munitions output. But what was his attitude?
Instead of following the honourable and chivalrous course, the course
sanctioned by long-established precedent and practice on the part of
Ministers of the Crown, of protecting, or trying to protect, the
public servant who had been assailed, he contented himself with
pointing out that the public servant ought to be given an opportunity
of stating his side of the question--which was manifestly impossible
in time of war--and that the onslaught was unexpected! There is not a
man in the United Kingdom better able to protect himself, or anybody
else, in speech and in argument in face of sudden attack than Mr.
Lloyd George. Had he been willing to do so he could have disposed of
Sir H. Dalziel, who in reality had no case, with the utmost ease.

                   [Footnote 7: On the 1st July we had 23 divisions
                   (exclusive of Indian divisions) in the field, and
                   one on the water. The "Expeditionary Force"
                   consisted of six divisions, but a vague sort of
                   organization for a seventh had also existed on
                   paper.]

But that line apparently did not suit the book of the Minister of
Munitions. He must have been well aware that a great improvement in
output was already beginning to take place, and that, thanks entirely
to the labours of the Ordnance Department of the War Office and of
Lord Kitchener, the output would within a few months reach huge
figures. If it were represented to the House, and through the House
to the country, that this question of munitions had been grossly
neglected up to the time that he took charge, and if it became
apparent subsequently that from the hour of his becoming Munitions
Minister a rapid improvement set in, then the thanks of the nation
would go out to him and he would be canonized. This is the only
explanation that I can find for a most discreditable incident. For he
made no attempt to meet the attack, and he contrived to convey the
impression by his remarks that the attack was fully justified. I have,
moreover, good reason for believing that on that day there was present
on the Treasury bench a representative of the War Office, not a
Cabinet Minister, who was ready and willing to defend the
Master-General of the Ordnance and who was acquainted with the facts,
but that the Minister of Munitions, being in charge of the House,
refused to sanction his speaking. Happily such occurrences are rare in
the public life of this country.

That reply of Mr. Lloyd George's on the 1st of July 1915--anybody can
look it up in Hansard--left an uncommonly nasty taste in the mouth.
The taste was made none the less nasty by his unblushing assumption on
later occasions of the credit for the improvement in munitions output
that took place from the summer of 1915 onwards. In my own case,
although I was nowise concerned with munitions output then, neither
pleasant association with Mr. Lloyd George at later dates in
connection with various war problems, nor yet the admiration for the
grit and courage displayed by him during the last three years of the
great contest which is felt by us all, could wholly remove that nasty
taste.

Much misapprehension--a misapprehension fostered by reckless and
ignorant assertions made on the subject in Parliament and in the
Press--exists in regard to the state of preparedness of our army for
war in the matter of armament. Rightly or wrongly--most people
probably now think wrongly--H.M. Government of pre-war days merely
contemplated placing in the field for offensive purposes a force of
six, or at the outside, seven divisions, with their complement of
mounted troops. Leaving the Germans out of consideration, our
Expeditionary Force of six divisions was upon the whole as well
equipped in respect to armament (apart from ammunition reserves) as
any one of the armies that were placed in the field in August 1914. It
only failed in respect to two items, heavy ordnance and high-explosive
shell for the field-guns, and in respect to field-howitzers and heavy
field-guns (the 60-pounders) it was better off than any, including the
German forces.

It will perhaps be urged that we were deplorably badly-off for
machine-guns, and so in a sense we were. But what were the facts? The
Expeditionary Force was better fitted out with this class of weapon
than any one of the embattled armies at the outset of the war, with
the exception of the German. Ex-Kaiser William's hosts enjoyed a
tremendous advantage in respect to machine-guns, but they enjoyed that
advantage to an even greater extent over the French and Russian
legions than over ours. No action on the part of the German Great
General Staff before the conflict reflects greater credit upon their
prescience, than does their recognition in the time of peace of the
great part that the mitrailleuse was capable of playing in
contemporary warfare. The quantities of these weapons with which our
principal antagonist took the field was a complete surprise to all;
these were far in excess of the "establishment" that had been
acknowledged and which was the same as our own. As a matter of fact we
were better off for them, relatively, than the French, or
Austro-Hungarians, or Russians. To say that the question of
machine-guns had been neglected by us before the war either from the
point of view of tactics or of supply, is almost as unfair as it would
be to allege that the question of Tanks had been neglected by the
Germans before the Battle of the Somme. In the course of the debate in
the House over the Munitions Bill in the early summer of 1915, Sir F.
Cawley stated that we were short of machine-guns at the beginning of
the war, and that none had been provided; the first charge was made
under a misapprehension, and the second charge was contrary to the
fact because a number of entirely new units had been fitted out with
the weapons. Mr. Lloyd George's statement, made a week before, that it
takes eight or nine months to turn out a machine-gun from the time
that the requisite new machinery is ordered, was ignored.

This brings us to the question of heavy ordnance and of high-explosive
ammunition for field-guns, and in this connection it is necessary to
refer to the violent attacks made upon the War Office in respect to
the supply of munitions, which find place in Lord French's "_1914_."
The Field-Marshal has not minced matters in his references to this
subject. He says of Mr. Lloyd George's work that it "was done in the
face of a dead weight of senseless but powerful opposition, all of
which he had to undermine and overcome." He speaks of the "apathy of a
Government which had brought the Empire to the brink of disaster,"
although his attitude towards the head of that Government hardly
betrays this. He devotes his last chapter to "making known some of the
efforts" that he "made to awaken both the Government and the public
from the apathy which meant certain defeat." His book appeared in the
summer of 1919, three and a half years after he had returned from
France, three and a half years which had given him ample time to
examine at home into the justice of views which he had formed during
critical months when confronting the enemy. His attitude relieves one
of many scruples that might have otherwise been entertained when
discussing the statement which he has made.

"_1914_," possibly unintentionally, leaves it to be inferred in
respect to heavy howitzers and similar ordnance, that the question of
supplying artillery of that type was first raised by Lord French
himself during the Battle of the Aisne. For the absence of any such
pieces from the Expeditionary Force when it started, no one, in my
opinion, was more responsible than the Field-Marshal. Plenty of
gunner officers were advocates of the employment of such ordnance in
the field, although none probably fully realized the importance of the
matter; but what evidence is there of encouragement from the
Inspector-General of the Forces of 1907-12 and C.I.G.S. of 1912-14,
who had been controlling the manoevres of the regular army for the
half-dozen years preceding August 1914? The question was taken up
within the War Office three or four weeks before the commencement of
the Battle of the Aisne--as soon, in fact, as the effect of the German
heavy howitzers against Liège and Namur came to be realized. I spoke
to Sir C. Douglas on the subject myself--I believe before the retreat
from Mons began. A Committee was set up, to which I contributed a
member from amongst the gunners in my branch. The immediate
construction of a very large--although not nearly large enough--number
of 8-inch, 9.2-inch and 12-inch howitzers was recommended by this
body. Lord Kitchener approved its recommendations on the spot, and the
Master-General of the Ordnance started work. All this, I believe, took
place before Sir J. French raised the question at all. But past
neglect could not be overcome at a moment's notice. Experiments had to
be carried out, and designs had to be approved. To construct a big
howitzer with its mounting takes time even after you have the
machinery available, and in 1914 the machinery had to be got together
in the first instance. How the ex-First Member of the Army Council
comes to be unaware of the extent to which the factor of time enters
into the construction of armament, I do not pretend to understand.

To a retired officer of artillery who had kept himself acquainted with
military progress, it did seem strange that after the Balkan War of
1912-13, which had clearly demonstrated the value of high-explosive
ammunition with field-guns, the War Office should continue to depend
entirely upon shrapnel for our 18-pounders, instead of following the
example of all other European countries that spent any considerable
sums on their armies. No very intimate acquaintance with technical
details was needed to realize that there were difficulties in the way,
and that high-explosive is awkward stuff to deal with--a gun of my own
5-inch battery in South Africa was, shortly after I had left the unit
to take up other work, blown to pieces by a lyddite shell detonating
in the bore, with dire results to the detachment. To secure detonation
is more difficult in a small, than in a big shell; but other countries
had managed to solve the problem in the case of their field-guns
somehow.

On joining at the War Office on mobilization, and before any fighting
had taken place, I asked about the matter, but was not wholly
convinced that there was adequate excuse for our taking the field
without what our antagonists and our Allies alike regarded as a
requisite. Ever since I joined the Army in 1878--and before--there had
been a vein of conservatism running through the upper ranks of the
Royal Artillery. (When my battery proceeded from India to Natal to
take part in the first Boer War in 1881, we actually had to change our
Armstrong breech-loading field-guns for muzzle-loaders on the way,
because breech-loaders had been abandoned at home and there was no
ammunition for them.) Of late years a progressive school had come into
being--technically described as "Young Turks"--who had tried hard to
secure the introduction of four-gun batteries and other up-to-date
reforms, but without having it all their own way by any means. Whether
the Young Turks favoured high-explosive or not, I do not know; but its
absence somehow did rather smack of the reactionary, and, with the
exception of one of its members, the personnel of the Expeditionary
Force appeared to have some grounds for complaint at its
field-batteries having none of this form of ammunition. The one
exception was, in my opinion, its commander-in-chief.

Lord French's account of his achievements in this matter is artless to
a degree. He informs his readers that he was always an advocate for
the supply of high-explosive shell to our horse and field artillery,
but that he got very little support; that such support as he got was
lukewarm in the extreme, and, finally, we are told that the "Ordnance
Board was not in favour of it." Here we have the Chief of the Imperial
General Staff and First Military Member of the Army Council advocating
the adoption in our army of what practically all other armies had
already adopted or were adopting, the adoption of a form of munitions
the value of which had been conclusively demonstrated in encounters of
which the General Staff must have had full cognizance, and he is
turned down by the "Ordnance Board"! If this represents the
Field-Marshal's conception of the position and the duties of the
General Staff and its head, then it is not surprising that, under
another chief, Tanks were dismissed with ignominy by a technical
branch of the War Office in January 1915 without the General Staff
ever having been consulted. The pre-war C.I.G.S. was in a dominating
position amongst the Military Members of the Army Council in virtue of
his high rank and his distinguished antecedents. He was very much more
than a _primus inter pares_. He was a field-marshal while the
Master-General of the Ordnance was a colonel with temporary rank of
major-general. Surely, if he had pressed this matter before the Army
Council, he would have received support? I feel equally sure that,
supposing the Army Council had refused to listen to his urgings, he
would have received satisfaction on representing the matter to the
Committee of Imperial Defence.

As a matter of fact, it was only after more than one representation
made by General von Donop that G.H.Q. agreed to take some
high-explosive ammunition, and so it was introduced--in small
quantities--very soon after fighting began, and when the urgent need
of it had become apparent. But the output was necessarily very
restricted for a long time, and no amount of talk and of bounce, such
as the Minister of Munitions was wont to indulge in from the summer of
1915 onwards for several months, would have increased it. Here was a
case of an entirely new article, for the provision of which no steps
had been taken before the war. There happened to be special technical
difficulties in the way of producing the article, _e.g._ the hardness
of the steel necessary for this type of shell, and devising a safe and
effective fuse. There is, moreover, one matter in connection with this
question of high-explosive for our 18-pounders which should be
mentioned, but to which no reference finds a place in "_1914_."

Some months after this ammunition first came to be used in the field
it began to give serious trouble. Something was wrong. The shell took
to bursting in the bore of the gun and to bulging, or wholly
destroying, the piece, although these disasters fortunately did not
generally involve loss of life. Between August and October 1915, no
less than sixty-four of our 18-pounders were thus rendered
unserviceable--very nearly double the number lost during the retreat
from Mons, and considerably more than the complement of one of our
divisions. We could not comfortably afford this drain upon our supply
of field-guns at a time when New Army divisions were still in some
cases gun-less, and when the Territorial division were still armed
with the virtually obsolete 15-pounder. Accidents of this character,
moreover, have a bad effect upon the personnel of batteries, for the
soldier does not like his weapon, be it a rifle, or a hand-grenade, or
a sabre that crumples up, to play tricks on him. The difficulty was
not got over until elaborate experiments, immediately set on foot by
the War Office (which still dealt with design and investigation,
although actual manufacture was by this time in the hands of the
Ministry of Munitions), had been carried out. But before the end of
the year it had been established that the failures were due to faults
in manufacture, and from that time forward these _contretemps_ became
extremely rare in the case of the 18-pounder. The question caused
acute anxiety at G.H.Q. and in the War Office for some weeks; the
French had had a very similar experience, but on an even worse scale.
The difficulty arose just after the Ministry of Munitions became
responsible for manufacture, and I do not suggest that the destruction
of the guns was the fault of that department, for the ammunition used
in the field during that period and for many months later was
ammunition ordered by the Master-General of the Ordnance. But similar
trouble arose later in the case of the field howitzer; there were no
less than 25 of these damaged between April and June 1916, nearly a
year after the Munitions Ministry had been set up.

It should be mentioned that some other statements regarding munitions
which appear in "_1914_" are inaccurate. In discussing Lord
Kitchener's memorandum written at the beginning of January 1915, which
intimated that H.M. Government vetoed the Belgian coast project, Lord
French declares that two or three months later, viz. in March and
April, "large train-loads of ammunition--heavy, medium, and
light--passed by the rear of the army in France _en route_ for
Marseilles for shipment to the Dardanelles." The Admiralty may
possibly have sent some ammunition by that route at that time, but it
is extremely unlikely. As for munitions for Sir I. Hamilton's troops,
the Dardanelles force did not land till the end of April, and its war
material was sent by long sea from the United Kingdom; very little
would have been gained, even in time, by adopting the route across
France. No great quantities of ammunition were sent from the United
Kingdom across country at any juncture to the Gallipoli Peninsula, but
G.H.Q. in France was once called upon to sacrifice some of its
reserve, and Lord French makes especial reference to this incident.

He says that on the 9th of May--the date on which he launched his
political intrigue--he was directed by the Secretary of State for War
to despatch 20 per cent of his reserve supply of ammunition to the
Dardanelles. Now, what are the facts? Sir I. Hamilton had urgently
demanded ammunition for a contemplated offensive. A vessel that was
loading up at Marseilles would reach the Aegean in time. To pass the
consignment through from the United Kingdom (where a large supply had
just come to hand from America) would mean missing the ship. G.H.Q.
were therefore instructed to forward 20,000 field-gun rounds and 2000
field-howitzer rounds to the Mediterranean port, and were at the same
time assured that the rounds would straightway, over and above the
normal nightly allowance sent across the Channel, be made good from
home. Sent off by G.H.Q. under protest, the field-gun rounds were
replaced _within twenty-four hours_ and the others within four days,
but of the engagement entered into, and kept, by the War Office,
"_1914_" says not one word. Lord French was evidently completely
misinformed on this matter.

It should be added that the amount of heavy artillery included in the
Dardanelles Expeditionary Force was negligible, and that the amount of
medium artillery was relatively very small. Large train-loads of
ammunition for such pieces were never required, nor sent. Inaccurate
statements of this kind tend to discredit much of Lord French's severe
criticism of Lord Kitchener and the department of the Master-General
of the Ordnance, for which there is small justification in any case.

One point made in the "Ammunition" chapter in "_1914_" deserves a word
of comment. Lord French mentions that the supply of shell received at
the front in May proved to be less than half of the War Office
estimate. That kind of thing went on after supply had been transferred
from the War Office to the Ministry of Munitions. I had something to
say to munitions at a subsequent period of the war, as will be touched
upon later, and used to see the returns and estimates. The Munitions
Ministry was invariably behind its estimates (although seldom, if
ever, to the extent of over 50 per cent) right up to the end. There
you have our old friend, the Man of Business, with his intolerable
swank. Some old-established private factories, as well as some new
factories set up during the war, were in the habit of promising more
than they could possibly perform. Certain of them were, indeed, ready
to promise almost anything. Their behaviour, I happen to know, caused
some of our Allies who placed contracts with them and were let in,
extreme annoyance. The names of one or two of them possibly stink in
the nostrils of certain foreign countries to this day, although that
sort of thing may also be common abroad. Those in authority came to
realize in the later stages of the war how little reliance could be
placed on promises, and they became sceptical. The Ministry of
Munitions, one can well imagine, discounted the estimates that they
got from their manufacturing establishments. The War Office certainly
discounted the estimates that it got from the Ministry of Munitions.
Commanders-in-chief in the field consequently no longer miscalculated
what they might expect, to the same extent as Sir J. French did in May
1915.

I only became directly associated with armament questions in the
summer of 1916, and then came for the first time into contact with the
Ministry of Munitions. Such questions are matters of opinion, but it
always seemed to me that this Department of State would have done
better had it stuck to its proper job--that of providing what the Army
and the Air Service required. The capture of design and inspection by
the Ministry may have been unavoidable, seeing that this new
organization was improvised actually during the course of a great war
and under conditions of emergency; but the principle is radically
wrong. It is for the department which wants a thing to say what it
wants and to see that it gets it. As a matter of fact, the Munitions
Ministry occasionally went even farther, and actually allocated goods
required by the Army to other purposes. When a well-known and popular
politician, after spending some three years or so at the front with
credit to himself, took up a dignified appointment in Armament
Buildings, the first thing that he did was to promise a trifle of 400
tanks to the French without any reference to the military authorities
at all. Still, who would blame him? His action, when all is said and
done, was merely typical of that "every man for himself, and the devil
take the hindmost" attitude assumed by latter-day neoteric Government
institutions. But even the most phlegmatic member of the community
will feel upset when the trousers which he has ordered are consigned
by his tailor to somebody else, and on this occasion the War Office
did gird up its loins and remonstrate in forcible terms.

With regard to the War Office and munitions, it only remains to be
said again in conclusion that the country was never told the truth
about this subject until some months after the armistice, when the
nation had ceased to care. Never was it told till then, nor were the
forces which had been fighting in the field told, that the great
increase in the output of guns, howitzers, machine-guns, and
ammunition, which took place from the autumn of 1915 onwards up to
just before the Battle of the Somme, was the achievement, not of the
Ministry of Munitions but of the War Office. The Munitions Ministry in
due course did splendid work. Chancellor of the Exchequer become
lord-paramount of a great spending Department of State, its chief was
on velvet. "Copper" turned footpad, he knew the ropes, he could flout
the Treasury--and he did. But it is a pity that unwarrantable claims
should have been put forward on behalf of the department in not
irresponsible quarters at a time when they could not be denied, claims
which have tended to bring the department as a whole into undeserved
disrepute amongst those who know the facts.



CHAPTER XI

COUNCILS, COMMITTEES, AND CABINETS

     The responsibilities of experts at War Councils -- The Rt. Hon.
     A. Fisher's views -- Discussion as to whether these meet the case
     -- Under the War Cabinet system, the question does not arise --
     The Committee of Imperial Defence merged in the War Council early
     in the conflict -- The Dardanelles Committee -- Finding a formula
     -- Mr. Churchill backs up Sir I. Hamilton -- The spirit of
     compromise -- The Cabinet carrying on _pari passu_ with the
     Dardanelles Committee -- Personal experiences with the Cabinet --
     The War Council which succeeded the Dardanelles Committee -- An
     illustration of the value of the War Cabinet system -- Some of
     its inconveniences -- Ministers -- Mr. Henderson -- Sir E. Carson
     -- Mr. Bonar Law -- The question of resignation of individuals --
     Lord Curzon -- Mr. Churchill -- Mr. Lloyd George.


Before proceeding to refer to a few personal experiences in connection
with the Ministerial pow-wows at which the conduct of the war was
decided, there is one matter of some public importance to which a
reference will not be out of place. That matter is the question of
responsibility imposed upon experts at gatherings of this kind. Are
they to wait until they are spoken to, no matter what folly is on the
tapis, or are they to intervene without invitation when things become
serious? My own experience is that on these occasions Ministers have
such a lot to say that the expert is likely to be overlooked in the
babel unless he flings himself into the fray.

The point is suggested by the "Conclusions" in the "First Report" of
the Dardanelles Commission. The Commissioners gave it as their opinion
that at the time of the initiation of the venture against the Straits,
"the Naval Advisers should have expressed their views in Council,
whether asked or not, if they considered that the project which the
Council was about to adopt was impracticable from a naval point of
view." The Commissioners also gave the decision on this point in other
words, but to the same effect, in another paragraph. Mr. Fisher, who
represented the Commonwealth of Australia on the Commission, while
subscribing to the Report in general, emphatically demurred to the
view taken by his brother Commissioners on this point, and Sir T.
Mackenzie, who represented New Zealand, agreed with Mr. Fisher
although he did not express himself quite so forcibly on the subject.
Mr. Fisher wrote: "I dissent in the strongest terms from any
suggestion that the departmental advisers of a Minister in his company
at a Council meeting should express any views at all other than to the
Minister and through him, unless specifically invited to do so. I am
of opinion it would seal the fate of responsible government if
servants of the State were to share the responsibility of Ministers to
Parliament, and to the people on matters of public policy." Which view
is the right one, that of the seven Commissioners representing the
United Kingdom, or that of the two Commissioners representing the
young nations afar off?

The answer to the question can perhaps best be put in the form of
another. Does the country exist for the Government, or does the
Government exist for the country? Now, if the country merely exists
for the Government, then Mr. Fisher's contention is unanswerable.
Whether it receives the opinion of the expert or not, the Government
is responsible. For a Minister to have an expert, within his own
Department of State and therefore his subordinate, blurting out views
contrary to his own is likely to be a sore trial to that Minister's
dignity, and this is not altered by the fact that the expert is likely
to be infinitely better qualified to express opinions on the subject
than he is. Supposing that the War Council, or the Cabinet, or
whatever the body happens to be, ignores or is unaware of the opinion
of the experts, and that it lands the country in some hideous mess in
consequence, it can always be called to account for the lapse. The
doctrine of responsibility which is regarded as of such paramount
importance will be fully upheld--and what more do you want? Gibbets
can be erected, the Ministers who have got the country into the mess
can be hanged in a row, and a fat lot of good that will do towards
getting the country out of the mess.

But if, on the contrary, the Government merely exists for the country,
then in times of emergency it is the bounden duty of everybody, and
particularly is it the duty of those who are really competent to do
so, to help the Government and to keep it out of trouble if they can.
One feels cold inside conjuring up the spectacle of a pack of experts
who have been called in to be present at a meeting of the War Council
or the Cabinet, sitting there mute and inarticulate like cataleptics
while the members of the Government taking part in the colloquy embark
on some course that is fraught with danger to the State. _Salus populi
suprema lex_. Surely the security of the commonwealth is of infinitely
greater moment than any doctrine of responsibility of Ministers,
mortals who are here to-day and gone to-morrow. Indeed--one says it
with all respect for a distinguished representative of one of the
great British dominions overseas--it looks as though Mr. Fisher did
not quite realize the position of the expert, and assumed that if the
expert gave his advice when asked it made him responsible to the
country. The expert is present, not in an executive, but in a
consultative capacity. He decides nothing. The Ministers present
decide, following his advice, ignoring his advice, failing to ask for
his advice, or mistakenly imagining that the expert concurs with them
as he keeps silence, according to the circumstances of the case.
Naturally, the expert should try to induce the head of his department
to listen to his views on the subject before the subject ever comes
before the Cabinet or the War Council. But if the Minister takes a
contrary view, if the matter is one of importance and if the Minister
at the meeting fails to acquaint his colleagues that he is at variance
with the expert, or again if the question crops up unexpectedly and
the expert has had no opportunity of expressing an opinion, then the
duty of the expert to the country comes first and he should say his
say. It may be suggested that he ought to resign. Perhaps he ought
to--afterwards. But the matter of vital importance is not whether he
resigns, but whether he warns the Government of the danger. The
country is the first consideration, not the Government nor yet the
expert.

One great advantage of the War Cabinet system introduced by Mr. Lloyd
George was that there was none of this sort of flapdoodle. At a War
Cabinet meeting the expert never hesitated to express his opinion,
whether he was asked for it or not. The work that I was doing in the
later stages of the war did not involve me in problems of major
importance, but when summoned to a War Cabinet meeting I never boggled
over giving my views as to what concerned my own job. I have heard Sir
W. Robertson, when he thought it necessary to do so, giving his
opinion similarly concerning questions of great moment, and nobody
dreamt of objecting to the intervention.

The Director of Military Intelligence was, more or less _ex officio_,
a member of the Committee of Imperial Defence in pre-war days, and
consequently I attended one meeting of this body shortly after
mobilization. There was a huge gathering--the thing was a regular
duma--and a prolonged discussion, which as far as I could make out led
nowhere and which in any case dealt with matters that nowise concerned
me, took place. Those were busy times, and, seeing that Lord Kitchener
and Sir C. Douglas attended these meetings as a matter of course, I
asked to be excused thenceforward. The Committee of Imperial Defence
was obviously not a suitable assemblage to treat of the conduct of the
war, seeing that it was only invested with consultative and not with
executive functions, and that it bore on its books individuals such as
Mr. Balfour and Lord Esher, who were not members of the Government,
nor yet officials. It therefore at a comparatively early date gave
place to the War Council, which captured its secretariat (a priceless
asset), and which later on became transformed into the Dardanelles
Committee. The Government did not, however, wholly lose the benefit of
Mr. Balfour's experience and counsel. One day--it must have been in
December--there was an informal discussion at the War Office in Lord
Kitchener's room, he being away in France at the time, in which
General Wolfe-Murray and I took part, and besides Mr. Lloyd George,
Mr. Churchill and Sir E. Grey--I do not think that Mr. Asquith was
there--Mr. Balfour was present.

Up till the early days of May, I attended no War Councils. Very soon
after that, the Coalition Government was formed, and thereupon the War
Council, which had been quite big enough goodness knows, developed
into the Dardanelles Committee of twelve members, of whom, excluding
Lord Kitchener, six were members of the former Liberal Government, and
five were Unionists. Sir E. Carson only came in in August, making the
number of representatives from the two factions equal and raising the
total to the lucky number of thirteen. What object was supposed to be
fulfilled by making the War Council such a bloated institution it is
hard to say. Almost the only members of the Cabinet who counted and
who were not included on its roll were Mr. Chamberlain and Mr. Long.
Be that as it may, the result was virtually to constitute the
Dardanelles Committee the Cabinet for general purposes of the war, and
to lead to its dealing with many matters quite distinct from the
prosecution of the campaign for the Straits. I have a vivid
recollection of one meeting, which probably took place late in June
(Lord Kitchener was not present), and at which the attitude to be
assumed by us with reference to Bulgaria and Greece, particularly
Bulgaria, was discussed. Sir E. Grey wanted a "formula" devised to
indicate to the Sofia Government what that attitude was; as neither he
nor anybody else knew what the attitude was, it was not easy to devise
the formula. Formula is an odious word in any case, recalling, as it
does, algebraical horrors of a forgotten past; but everybody present
wrote out formulae, and dialecticians had the time of their lives. Mr.
Balfour's version was eventually chosen as the most felicitous. But
the worst of it was that this masterpiece of appropriate
phrase-mongering did not bring in the Bulgars on our side. The
triumphant campaign of the Central Powers on the Eastern Front somehow
proved a more potent factor in deciding Tsar Ferdinand as to what
course to pursue, than a whole libraryful of formulae could ever have
effected.

At another meeting, at which Lord Kitchener likewise was not present,
a marked and disagreeable tendency to criticize Sir I. Hamilton for
his ill-success made itself apparent. I was the only representative of
the army present, and it was manifestly impossible for an officer
miles junior to Sir Ian to butt into a discussion of that kind. But
Mr. Churchill spoke up manfully and with excellent effect. The gist of
his observations amounted to this: If you commit a military commander
to the undertaking of an awkward enterprise and then refuse him the
support that he requires, you have no business to abuse him behind his
back if he fails. That seemed to me to fit the situation like a glove;
it did not leave much more to be said on the point, and no more was
said, thanks to the First Lord's timely remonstrance.

There was any amount of chatter at these musters; but on the other
hand one seldom seemed to find oneself much forrarder. That is the
worst of getting together a swarm of thinkers who are furnished with
the gift of the gab and are brimming over with brains. Nothing
happens. If a decision was by any chance arrived at, it was of a
non-committal nature. The spirit of compromise asserted itself and the
Committee adopted a middle course, a course which no doubt fits in
well with many of the problems with which governments in ordinary
times have to wrestle, but which does not constitute a good way of
conducting war.

The full Cabinet of twenty-three was carrying on _pari passu_ with the
Dardanelles Committee. It did undoubtedly take some sort of hand in
the prosecution of the war from time to time, because one day I was
summoned to stand by at 10 Downing Street when it was sitting, soon
after the Coalition Government was formed and when Lord Kitchener
happened to be away, on the chance of my being wanted. They were
hardly likely to require my services in connection with matters other
than military. After an interminable wait--during the luncheon hour,
too--Mr. Arthur Henderson, who was a very recent acquisition, emerged
stealthily from the council chamber after the manner of the
conspirator in an Adelphi drama, and intimated that they thought that
they would be able to get on without me. In obedience to an unwritten
law, the last-joined member was always expected to do odd jobs of this
kind, just as at some schools the bottom boy of the form is called
upon by the form-master to perform certain menial offices _pro bono
publico_.

The mystery observed in connection with these Cabinet meetings was not
unimpressive. But the accepted procedure--without a secretary present
to keep record of what was done and with apparently no proper minutes
kept by anybody--was the very negation of sound administration and of
good government. Such practice would have been out of date in the days
of the Heptarchy. Furthermore it did not fulfil its purpose in respect
to concealment, because whenever the gathering by any accident made up
its mind about anything that was in the least interesting, everybody
outside knew all about it within twenty-four hours. And in spite of
all the weird precautions, I actually was present once for a very
brief space of time at one of these momentous sittings. It came about
after this wise. On the rising of a Dardanelles Committee meeting, one
of the Ministers who had attended drew me into a corner to enquire
concerning a point that had arisen. There was movement going on in the
room, people coming and going, but we were intent on our confabulation
and took no notice. Suddenly there was an awe-inspiring silence and
then Mr. Asquith was heard to lift up his voice. "Good Lord!"
ejaculated my Minister (just like that--they are quite human when
taken off their guard), "the Cabinet's sitting!" and until back, safe
within the War Office portals, I almost seemed to feel a heavy hand on
my shoulder haling me off to some oubliette, never more to be heard of
in the outer world.

A less teeming War Council than the Dardanelles Committee was
substituted for that assemblage about October 1915, and I only
attended one or two of its meetings. Sir A. Murray was by that time
installed as C.I.G.S., and things were on a more promising footing
within the War Office. It was this new form of War Council which was
thrown over by the Cabinet with reference to the evacuation of the
Gallipoli Peninsula, as related on pp. 103, 104. As far as one could
judge, when more or less of an outsider in connection with the general
conduct of operations but none the less a good deal behind the scenes,
this type of War Council, constituted out of the Ministers who were
directly connected with the operations, besides the Prime Minister,
Foreign Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer, with the First Sea
Lord and C.I.G.S. always in attendance, worked very well during the
greater part of 1916. But Mr. Lloyd George's plan of a War Cabinet, in
spite of certain inevitable drawbacks to such an arrangement, was
undoubtedly the right one for times of grave national emergency. Its
accessibility and its readiness to deal with problems in a practical
spirit are illustrated by the following incident within my own
experience.

We had got ourselves into a condition of chaos in [p.216] connection with
the problem of Greek supplies at the beginning of 1918. There was an
extremely vague agreement with the French, an unsigned agreement
entered into in haste by representatives on our side of little
authority, under which we were supposed to provide all sorts of things
for the Hellenes. But the whole business was extremely irregular and
it was in a state of hopeless confusion--it will be referred to again
in a later chapter. In the War Office alone, several departments and
branches were concerned, including my own up to a certain point. The
Ministries of Munitions and Shipping were in the affair as well,
together with the Board of Trade, the Foreign Office, and last but not
least, the Treasury. But what was everybody's business was nobody's
business. Each department involved declared that some other one must
take the matter up and get things unravelled, and at last in a fit of
exasperation, although my branch was only a 100 to 3 outsider in the
matter, I took the bull by the horns and wrote privately to Sir M.
Hankey, asking him to put the subject of Greek Supplies on the Agenda
for the War Cabinet on some early date and to summon me to be on hand,
which he did. When the matter came up, Mr. Lloyd George enquired of me
what the trouble was. I told him that we were in a regular muddle,
that we could not get on, that several Departments of State were in
the thing, but that it hardly seemed a matter for the War Cabinet to
trouble itself with. Could not one of its members take charge, get us
together, and give us the authority we required for dealing with the
problem? Mr. Lloyd George at once asked Lord Milner to take the
question up, not more than five minutes of the War Cabinet's time was
wasted, and within a very few hours Lord Milner had got the business
on a proper footing and we all knew where we were.

Now, supposing that instead of the War Cabinet it had been a case of
that solemn, time-honoured, ineffectual council composed of all the
principal Ministers of the Crown, gathered together in Downing Street
to discuss matters which the majority of those present never know any
more about than the man in the moon, what would have happened? We of
the War Office might among us, with decent luck, have managed to prime
our own private Secretary of State, and might have sent him off to the
Cabinet meeting with a knowledge of his brief. But, unless the
Ministers at the heads of the other Departments of State concerned had
been got hold of beforehand and told what to do and to say, they would
among the lot of them have made confusion worse confounded. If by any
chance a decision had then been arrived at, it would almost inevitably
have been a perfectly preposterous one, totally inapplicable to the
question that was actually at issue.

A summons to attend a War Cabinet meeting was not, however, an unmixed
joy. There was always an agenda paper; but it was apt to turn out a
delusion and a snare. The Secretariat did their very best to calculate
when the different subjects down for discussion on the paper would
come up, and they would warn one accordingly. But they often were out
in their estimate, and they had always to be on the safe side. Some
quite simple and apparently straightforward subject would take a
perfectly unconscionable time to dispose of, while, on the other hand,
an apparently extremely knotty problem might be solved within a few
minutes and so throw the time-table out of gear. The result was that
in the course of months one spent a good many hours, off and on,
lurking in the antechamber in 10 Downing Street.

Still, there was always a good fire in winter time, and one found
oneself hobnobbing, while waiting, with all sorts and conditions of
men. There would be Ministers holding high office but not included in
the Big Five (or was it Six?), emissaries just back from some centre
of disturbance and excitement abroad, people who dealt with wheat
production and distribution, knights of industry called in over some
special problem, and persons purporting to be masters of
finance--which nobody understands, least of all the experts. Who could
possibly, under any circumstances, be angry with Mr. Balfour? But he
was occasionally something of a trial when one was patiently awaiting
one's turn. Although the Agenda paper might make it plain that no
subject was coming up with which the Foreign Office could possibly be
in the remotest degree connected, he would be descried sloping past
and going straight into the Council Chamber, as if he had bought the
place. Then out would come one of the Secretary gang. The Foreign
Minister had turned up, and was setting them an entirely unexpected
conundrum inside; the best thing one could do was to clear out of
that, as the point which one had been summoned to give one's views
about had not now the slightest chance of coming before the Cabinet
that day.

At the various forms of War Council at which the prosecution of the
war was debated, one was necessarily brought into contact with a
number of politicians and statesmen, and was enabled to note their
peculiarities and to watch their methods. I never to my knowledge saw
Lord Beaconsfield; but in the late 'eighties and early 'nineties Mr.
Gladstone was sometimes to be met in the streets, and, even if one
thought that he ought to be boiled, one none the less felt mildly
excited at the spectacle. That aphorism, "familiarity breeds
contempt," does put the point a little crudely; but the fact remains
that when you are brought into contact with people of this kind, about
whom there is such a lot of talk in the newspapers, they turn out to
be very much like everybody else. Needless to say, they will give
tongue to any extent, but, apart from that, they may even be something
of a disappointment to those who anticipate great things of them.
Still, it is only right to acknowledge that the majority of Ministers
met with during the Great War were sensible enough in respect to
military matters. The amateur strategist was fortunately the exception
in these circles, and not the rule. Most of them picked up the
fundamental facts in connection with any situation that presented
itself quite readily; they grasped elementary principles when these
were explained to them and they were able to keep those principles in
mind. But there were goats as well as sheep. You might just as well
have started dancing jigs to a milestone as have tried to get into the
heads of one or two of them the elementary fact that the conduct of
war cannot be decided on small-scale maps but is a matter of stolid
and unemotional calculation, that imagination is a deadly peril when
unaccompanied by knowledge, and that army corps and divisions cannot
be switched about ashore or afloat as though they were taxi-cabs or
hydroplanes.

Mr. Henderson shaped well when military matters were in debate; he
looked portentous and he held his tongue. Then there was Sir E. Carson
who, during the few weeks that he figured on the Dardanelles Committee,
was an undeniable asset. His interjections of "Mr. Asquith, we really
must make up our minds," uttered with an accent not unfamiliar to one
who had passed youthful days in the vicinity of Dublin, and
accompanied by a moody stare such as his victim in the witness-box
must find rather disconcerting when under cross-examination at the
hands of the famous K.C., had no great effect perhaps. But the motive
was unexceptionable. He and Mr. Bonar Law used to sit together and to
press for decisions, and it was unfortunate that Sir Edward resigned
when he did. Mr. Bonar Law was within an ace of resigning likewise
very shortly afterwards. He invited me to go over to the Colonial
Office to see him and to talk over matters, and I expressed an earnest
hope that he would stick to the ship. An artist in letter-writing (as
was shown in his momentous epistle written on behalf of the Unionist
leaders when Mr. Asquith's Cabinet were in two minds at the beginning
of August 1914), his memorandum which is quoted in the "Final Report"
of the Dardanelles Commission, and in which he insisted upon the
advice of the military authorities with reference to the evacuation
of the Gallipoli Peninsula being followed, indicates how fortunate it
was that he remained at his post.

The truth is that resignations of the individual Minister seldom do
any good from the point of view of the public interest, except when
the individual Minister concerned happens to be unfit for his
position--and then he generally seems immune from that "unwanted
doggie" sort of feeling from which less illustrious persons are apt to
suffer when they are _de trop_. The cases mentioned on p. 144 in
connection with the Army Council stood on an entirely different
footing. When a body of officials resign, or threaten to resign, their
action cannot be ignored; in the second case mentioned the mere threat
sufficed. Lord Fisher paid me one of his meteoric visits on the
morning that he submitted his resignation to Mr. Asquith, and he
confided his reasons to me; the reasons were good, but it seemed
doubtful whether they were quite good enough to justify the taking of
so drastic a step.

There was no more edifying and compelling personality amongst the
party who were in the habit of taking the floor in 10 Downing Street
in 1915 than Lord Curzon. He, Mr. Churchill, and Mr. Lloyd George
might almost have been called rivals for the rôle of _prima ballerina
assoluta_. The remarks that fell from his lips, signalized as they
ever were by a faultless phraseology and delivered with a prunes,
prisms and potatoes diction, seldom failed to lift the discussion on
to a higher plane, to waft his hearers on to the serene hill-tops of
thought, to awaken sublime sensations in all present such as the
spectacle of some noble mountain panorama will summon up in the
meditations of the most phlegmatic. Mr. Churchill, ever lucid, ever
cogent, ever earnest, ever forceful, was wont to be so convincing that
he would almost cause listeners to forget for the moment that, were
the particular project which just then happened to be uppermost in his
mind to be carried into execution, any small hopes which remained of
our ever winning the war would inevitably be blotted out for good and
all. As for Mr. Lloyd George in drab days before he became First
Minister of the Crown in spite of his superhuman efforts to avoid that
undesired consummation, he always loved to make his voice heard, and
he always succeeded--just as a canary will in a roomful of chattering
women.



CHAPTER XII

SOME INTER-ALLIES CONFERENCES

     The Conference with the Italians in Paris in April-May 1915 --
     Its constitution -- Italians anxious that Allies should deliver
     big offensive simultaneously with advance of Italian army --
     Impossibility of giving a guarantee -- Difficulties over the
     naval proposals -- Banquet given by M. Millerand at the War
     Office -- A visit to the front -- Impressions -- Mr. Churchill
     turns up unexpectedly -- A conference with General Joffre at
     Chantilly over Salonika -- Its unsatisfactory character --
     Admiral Gamble races "Grandpère," and suffers discomfiture -- A
     distinguished party proceed to Paris -- A formal conference with
     the French Government -- Messrs. Asquith, Grey and Lloyd George
     as linguists -- The French attitude over Salonika -- Sir W.
     Robertson gives his views -- The decision -- Dinner at the Élysée
     -- Return to London -- Mr. Lloyd George and the soldiers on the
     Boulogne jetty -- Points of the destroyer as a yacht -- Mr.
     Balfour and Sir W. Robertson afloat -- A chatty dinner on our
     side of the Channel -- Difficulty over Russian munitions owing to
     a Chantilly conference -- A conference at the War Office -- Mr.
     Lloyd George as chairman -- M. Mantoux.


The first meeting of importance with representatives of the Allies at
which I was present took place in Paris at the end of April 1915, and
has already been referred to on p. 63. Sir H. Jackson and I were sent
over, as representing respectively the Admiralty and the War Office,
to take part in a secret conference that was to be held between
French, Russian, and British naval and military delegates on the one
side, and Italian naval and military delegates on the other side in
connection with Italy's entry into the war as an associate of the
Entente. That Italy was to join the Allies had already been arranged
secretly between the four governments, and it was understood that she
was to open hostilities in the latter part of May. The purpose of the
Conference was to permit of the situation being discussed, and formal
naval and military conventions were to be drawn up between the
contracting Powers. Sir Henry and I were accompanied by small staffs,
and we put up at the Ritz in the Place Vendôme.

M. Millerand, who was French War Minister at the time, presided at the
Conference which assembled in the War Office, and he made an ideal
chairman--the French are always admirable at managing such functions.
The principal French military delegate was General Pellé, General
Joffre's Chief of Staff; the Russians were represented by their
Military Attaché in Paris, Colonel Count Ignatieff, and the principal
Italian military delegate was a colonel (whose name I cannot recall),
a most attractive and evidently an extremely capable soldier, who
unhappily was killed within a few months when in command of a brigade
in one of the early fights near Gorizia. In so far as framing the
military convention was concerned, that part of the proceedings gave
little trouble. The Italian representatives, it is true, were anxious
that the Allies should undertake to embark upon an offensive on the
greatest possible scale practicable, simultaneously with the Italian
army crossing the frontier about the Isonzo; but General Pellé and I
could give no guarantee to that effect, the more so seeing that a
Franco-British offensive had already, as it was, been decided upon to
start in the Bethune-Vimy region within a few days and before the
Italian army would be ready. One had a pretty shrewd suspicion that
there was no opening whatever for an offensive on the Eastern Front in
view of our Russian Allies' grave munitions difficulties, although the
French seemed strangely unaware of the nakedness of the land in that
quarter; still, it was no part of the game to hint at joints in our
harness of that kind to the Italian representatives. Ignatieff, bluff
and cheery, was careful not to commit himself on the subject. The end
of it was that our military convention amounted to little more than an
agreement that we were all jolly fine fellows, accompanied by
cordial expressions of good-will and of a determination on the part of
the four contracting Powers to do their best and to stick together.
The naval side of the problem, on the other hand, was beset by
pitfalls, and that part of the business was not satisfactorily
disposed of for several days.

Even to a landsman like myself, it was apparent that the Italian
conception of war afloat in the year of grace 1915 was open to
criticism. Our new friends contemplated employing their fleet very
freely as an auxiliary to their army in its advance along the littoral
towards Trieste, a theory of naval operations which came upon one with
something of a shock at the very start. Pola and other well-sheltered
bowers for under-water craft lie pretty handy to the maritime district
in which King Victor's troops were going to take the field. For
battleships and cruisers to be pottering about in those waters serving
out succour to the soldiers on shore, succour which would in all
probability be of no great account in any case, suggested that those
battleships and cruisers would be transmogrified into submarines at a
very early stage of the proceedings. One wondered if the Ministry of
Marine away south by the Tiber had heard the tragic tale of the
_Hogue_, the _Cressy_ and the _Aboukir_. Nor was that all. The Italian
naval delegates put forward requests that fairly substantial
assistance in the shape of war-craft of various types should be
afforded them within the Adriatic by the French and ourselves.

All this struck even an outsider like myself as somewhat
unsatisfactory, and that was clearly the view which Sir H. Jackson
took. For, in some disorder, he let slip an observation to the effect
that it looked like the recently acquired collaborator with the
Entente being rather a nuisance than otherwise. The rendering of this
expression of opinion of the Admiral's into French at the hands of our
Naval Attaché in Paris (Captain Hodges) was a masterpiece of
diplomatic camouflage. In the end the Italian sailors were obliged to
ask for an adjournment to allow of their communicating with Rome,
and, if I recollect aright, the principal one of them had to proceed
home to discuss the question at headquarters. All this took up time,
and we did not finally get the conventions signed for nearly a
fortnight.

M. Millerand gave a banquet at the War Office in honour of us
delegates, at which we met M. Viviani, the Prime Minister, together
with other members of the French Cabinet. I enjoyed the good fortune
of sitting next to M. Delcassé, and so of making the acquaintance of
one of the great Foreign Ministers of our time. Paris is at its best
in spring, and had it not been war-time and had one not been in a
fidget to get back to Whitehall, a few days of comparative idleness
spent in _la ville lumière_ after nine months of incessant office
work, while the international sailor-men settled their differences,
would have been not unwelcome. The pause, however, provided an
opportunity for motoring down to St. Omer and spending a couple of
days in the war zone--my first visit to the Front. Two points
especially struck me on this trip. One was the wonderful way that the
women and children of France (for scarcely an adult male was to be
seen about in the rural districts) were keeping their end up in the
fields. The other was the smart and soldier-like bearing of the
rank-and-file amongst our troops, in striking contrast to the
go-as-you-please methods which prevailed in South Africa, and to
which, indirectly, some of the "regrettable incidents" which occurred
on the veldt were traceable. It gave one confidence. Sir J. French and
some of G.H.Q. were at advanced headquarters at Hazebrouck as
offensive operations were impending, and Sir John, on the afternoon
that I saw him, was greatly pleased at a most successful retirement of
our line in a portion of the Ypres salient which General Plumer had
brought off on the previous night. On getting back to Paris it
transpired that the naval trouble was not yet settled.

One morning, sitting with Admiral Gamble who was over to help Sir H.
Jackson, in the long alley-way of the Ritz where one enjoys early
breakfast if that meal be not partaken of in private apartments,
Commodore Bartolomé, the First Lord's "Personal Naval Assistant," was
of a sudden descried in the offing and beating up for the Bureau.
"Good God!" exclaimed the Admiral, horror-stricken. "Winston's come!"
He had, so we learnt from Bartolomé; but what he had come for nobody
could make out. Telegraphic communication exists between Paris and
London, and Sir H. Jackson was in constant touch with our Admiralty.
However, to whatever cause the visit was to be attributed, there was
Mr. Churchill as large as life and most anxious to get busy; and I
personally was glad to see him, because he told me all about what had
been going on in the Gallipoli Peninsula since the landing of a few
days before. One did not gather that the French were any more
delighted at his jack-in-the-box arrival, and at his interventions in
the Conference discussions, than were our naval representatives who
had been officially accredited for the purpose. A satisfactory
agreement was, however, at last arrived at over the Adriatic, the
conventions were signed with due pomp and circumstance, and our party
returned to England. While in Paris I had paid one or two visits to
General Graziani, who was the Chief of the General Staff at the French
War Office; but we in Whitehall never could make out exactly what were
the relations between the military authorities in Paris and those at
Chantilly. The very fact that General Joffre's Chief of Staff had been
French military representative at our Conference, and not General
Graziani or his nominee, seemed odd.

Some six months later, early in November, I again went over to France,
this time with Sir A. Murray, to attend a discussion with General
Joffre at Chantilly concerning Salonika. Admiralty representatives,
including Admiral Gamble and Mr. Graeme Thomson, Director of Naval
Transport, were of the party. Sir J. French with Sir W. Robertson, his
Chief of the General Staff, and Sir H. Wilson came up from St. Omer.
It was by no means a satisfactory meeting. We from the War Office in
London desired to circumscribe British participation in this new
side-show to the utmost, and to keep the whole business as far as
possible within limits; but we got uncommonly little support from
G.H.Q. Sir W. Robertson expressed no opinion, nor was he called upon
to do so; he would have found it awkward to dissent from his
commander-in-chief. But the result was that when a much more important
conference over the same subject took place a few days later, this
time between the two Governments, Sir J. French was not present while
Sir W. Robertson was. These things do arrange themselves somehow.

As the discussion took place at Chantilly late in the afternoon,
G.H.Q. and we put up at Amiens for the night. On our discovering that
General Joffre contemplated crossing the Channel next day to have a
chat with our Government, the C.I.G.S. prevailed upon Admiral Gamble
to hurry on in his motor to Boulogne next morning so as to catch the
packet there, to cross to Folkestone, and to get up to London in time
to warn our people of the somewhat expansive Salonika programme which
"Grandpère" had up his sleeve. The Silent Navy, it is hardly necessary
to say, fairly rose to the occasion, for the Admiral was off under
forced draught in the dog-watch. Chancing things, however, when
weathering a promontory off Montreuil, he contrived to pile up his
craft on a shoal in a bad position, and he would have missed
trans-shipment at Boulogne altogether had he not got himself taken off
in a passing craft which was under charge of soldier-officers who were
likewise making for the packet. So he got across all right in the end
and he flashed up to town, only to find that old man Joffre had not
played the game. "Grandpère" had slept peacefully in the train, had
boarded a destroyer at some unearthly hour of the morning, and was
already in Whitehall before our staunch, precipitate emissary had cast
off from Boulogne.

On the occasion of that next pow-wow mentioned [p.228] above, Messrs.
Asquith, Balfour (now First Lord), Lloyd George and Sir Edward Grey
crossed over as our representatives. Sir H. Jackson (now First Sea
Lord), Sir W. Robertson, who had been summoned over to London, and I
accompanied them, as well as Colonel Hankey and some others. We
travelled by specials and a destroyer and took the Boulogne route. Our
warship tied up to the _East Anglia_, hospital ship, at Boulogne, and
as we passed across her some of us had a few words with nurses and
wounded on board, little anticipating that she would be mined next day
on the passage over to England, with most unfortunate loss of life.
Eventually we arrived at the Gare du Nord about midnight, to be
welcomed by a swarm of French Ministers and Lord Bertie, and to find
all arrangements made for us with typical French hospitality.

The Conference took place at the Foreign Office on the Quai d'Orsay,
M. Briand presiding. Several members of the French Government were
present, besides Generals Joffre, Gallieni and Graziani; and with our
party, as well as interpreters, secretaries and others, there was
quite a gathering. After M. Briand had welcomed us cordially and in
felicitous terms, Mr. Asquith got a charming little speech in French
off his chest; it may perhaps have had a whiff of the lamp about it
and had probably been learnt by heart, but the P. M. undoubtedly
managed to serve up a savoury _appétitif_, and we felt that in the
matter of courtesy and the amenities our man had held his own. In the
course of the discussion that followed, Sir E. Grey's minute-gun
process of turning our host's delightful language to account afforded
all present ample time to take in the drift of his cogent, weighty
arguments and to appraise them at their proper worth. Had it been any
one else, Mr. Lloyd George would have been voted an unmitigated
nuisance on all hands. As a result of prolonged residence in the Gay
City at a somewhat later date, the Right Honourable Gentleman is now,
it is understood, in the habit of bandying badinage with the
_midinettes_ in the _argot_ of the Quartier Latin. But at the time
that I speak of his acquaintance with the Gallic tongue was strictly
limited (although he did put forward claims to be able to understand
"Grey's French"), and he kept from time to time insisting upon the
proceedings being brought to a halt while a translation of something
that had been said was furnished for his benefit, generally selecting
some particularly unprofitable platitude which had been uttered by one
of those present for the purpose of gaining time.

The French took up a strong line over Salonika. In a sense they drove
our side into a corner, and the responsibility for hundreds of
thousands of French and British troops being interned in Macedonia for
years rests with them, and it was in great measure the outcome of that
day's debate. Sir W. Robertson was called upon to state his views. He
knows French perfectly well, but he absolutely refused to speak
anything but English, and his remarks were translated, sentence after
sentence, by a young French officer with a perfect command of the
latter tongue. After each successive sentence had been rendered into
French, Sir William, who was sitting beside me, would murmur,
"Infernal fellow, that's not what I said," as though repeating the
responses, the poor interpreter having in reality done his duty like a
man. The gist of his remarks was what might have been expected, viz.
that the Germans were the real enemy and that the proper course for
the Allies to pursue was to concentrate force against them and not to
be hunting about for trouble in the uttermost parts of the earth.
Views of that kind, enunciated bluntly and with considerable emphasis,
were very likely not wholly palatable to M. Briand; but it seemed to
me that they were not regarded with disfavour by General Joffre, nor
yet by General Gallieni, although those distinguished soldiers when
invited to give expression to their views contrived merely to say
nothing at considerable length. The end of it all was that we were
committed to dumping down three more divisions at Salonika in
addition to the two already there or disembarking, and that we were,
moreover, committed to sending them thither without delay. When they
got there it took ages to get their impedimenta ashore owing to lack
of landing facilities--as we had fully foreseen. The amateur
strategist imagines that you can discharge an army out of a fleet of
transports and freight-ships just anywhere and as easily as you can
empty a slop-pail.

We dined with the President and Mme. Poincaré at the Élysée that
night, and most of the French Cabinet, as well as Generals Joffre and
Gallieni, were likewise invited. Our Big Four were in some doubt as to
what garb to appear in, seeing that it was not to be a full-dress
function, sporting trinkets; and they eventually hit upon
dinner-jackets with black ties. So Sir W. Robertson and I decided to
doff breeches, boots and spurs, and to don what military tailors refer
to as "slacks" but what in non-sartorial circles are commonly called
trousers. The French civilians all wore frock-coats, so that there was
an agreeable lack of uniformity and formality when we assembled. I sat
next to M. Dumergue, the Colonial Minister, and between us we disposed
of the German Colonies in a spirit of give and take--or rather take,
because there was none of that opera-bouffe "mandate" which has since
then been wafted across from the Western Hemisphere, included in our
arrangements. In the course of the evening I managed to obtain General
Joffre's views concerning the feasibility of withdrawing from the
Gallipoli Peninsula without encountering heavy loss, a subject that
one had constantly in mind at that time. Père Joffre's opinion was
that, subject to favourable weather and to the retreat taking place at
night, the thing could be managed, and he emphasized the fact that the
conditions of trench warfare rather lent themselves to secret
withdrawals of that nature.

We made our way back to London on the following day, leaving Paris in
the forenoon, and were to embark at Calais; but owing to some
misunderstanding our special ran into Boulogne and out on to the
jetty, where numbers of troops were assembled as a leave-boat was
shortly to cross. This afforded me an opportunity of experiencing how
very engaging Mr. Lloyd George can make himself when dealing with a
somewhat critical audience. For the whole party got out, glad to
stretch their legs, and I wandered about with the Munitions Minister.
We got into conversation with some of the men, he was recognised, and
a crowd speedily gathered round us. He questioned them, and it is
hardly necessary to say that, being British soldiers, they did not
forget to grumble; they were particularly eloquent on the subject of
the quality and the quantity of hand-grenades. But Mr. Lloyd George
handled them most skilfully, got a great deal of useful information
out of them, delighted them with his cheery manner and apt chaff, and
when we had to hurry off as our train was about to move on, the men
cheered him to the echo. "Sure he's a great little man intoirely," I
heard a huge lump of an Irish sergeant remark to a taciturn
Highlander, who removed his pipe from his mouth to spit in unqualified
acquiescence.

They say that a destroyer represents an invaluable form of
fighting-ship, and no doubt she does; but it is ridiculous to pretend
that she makes an agreeable pleasure-boat--at all events not at night
and with all lights out. In the first place there is nothing whatever
to prevent your falling out of the vessel altogether, and as the
gangways which pretend to be the deck are littered with anchors,
chains, torpedoes, funnels, ventilators, and what not, you dare not,
if you have been so ill-advised as to remain up top, roam about in
pitch darkness even in harbour, let alone when the craft is jumping
and wriggling and straining out in the open. Having tried the high-up
portion of the ship at the front end, where the cold was perishing and
the spray amounted to a positive outrage, on the way over, I selected
the wardroom aft on the way back and found this much more inhabitable.
There was a nice open stove to sit before, a pleasant book to read,
and there was really nothing to complain about except the rattle and
whirr of the propellers. Sir W. Robertson is a very fine soldier, but
he does not cut much ice as a sailor; although it was as settled as
the narrow seas can fairly be expected to be in late autumn, he lay
perfectly flat on his back on a bunk with his hands folded across his
chest like the effigies of departed sovereigns in Westminster Abbey,
and he never moved an eyelid till we were inside the Dover
breakwaters. All the same, he stayed the course, and that is more, I
fear, than the First Lord of the Admiralty did. For the Ruler of the
King's Navy made a bee-line for the Lieutenant-Commander's own private
dug-out the moment he came aboard at Calais, and he remained in
ambuscade during the voyage.

There used to be a ditty sung at a pantomime or some such
entertainment when I was at Haileybury--music-halls were less numerous
and less aristocratic in those days than they are now--of which the
refrain was to the effect that one must meet with the most unheard-of
experiences ere one would "cease to love." We used to spend an
appreciable portion of our time in form composing appropriate verses,
as effective a mental exercise perhaps as the labours we were supposed
to be engaged on. Mr. Goschen had recently been appointed First Lord
of the Admiralty, and one distich in the official version ran: "May
Goschen have a notion of the motion of the ocean, if ever I cease to
love." It is to be apprehended that Mr. Balfour acquired a better
notion of the motion of the ocean than he cared for, on these
destroyer trips in which he was in the habit of indulging; for when we
fetched up on this side of the Channel and made our way to the
attendant dining-car, where the trained eye instantly detected the
presence of glasses on the tables of that peculiar shape that denotes
the advent of bubbly wine (none of your peasant drinks when the
taxpayer is standing treat), the First Lord rolled up swathed in a
shawl, a lamentable bundle, and disappeared like a transient and
embarrassed phantom into a corner, to be seen no more until we
steamed into Charing Cross.

The run up to town from Dover by special was edifying and was not
uninstructive, for it threw some light upon the mystery that is
connected with the frequent leaking-out of matters which upon the
whole had better be kept secret. A train composed of only a couple of
cars makes less noise than the more usual sort, and our dining-car
happened to be a particularly smooth-running one. The consequence was
that almost every word that was said in the car could be heard by
anybody who chose to listen. The Big Three (Mr. Balfour had deserted
as we have seen) sat together at one table, whilst we lesser fry
congregated close at hand at others. The natural resilience following
upon the conclusion of the Conference and the happy termination of
cross-Channel buffetings may perhaps have been somewhat stimulated by
draughts of sparkling vintage; but, be that as it may, the Prime
Minister and the Minister of Munitions were in their most expansive
mood, and after a time their conversation was followed by the rest of
us with considerable interest. To the sailors present, as also to one
or two of the junior soldier-officers, it was probably news--and it
must surely have been news to the waiters--to learn that Sir J. French
was shortly to vacate command of the B.E.F. in France. Nor could we be
other than gratified at the discussions concerning Sir D. Haig's
qualifications as a successor; I was expecting every moment to hear
Sir W. Robertson's suitability for the post freely canvassed; he was
sitting back-to-back with the Munitions Minister, but with the
half-partition usual in our English dining-cars intervening. Cabinet
Ministers certainly are quaint people.

I attended more than one Conference with the Allies on the subject of
munitions and supplies at a later stage of the war. They had a rather
inconvenient habit, some of them, of springing brand-new proposals
upon one without any warning, and they would without turning a hair
raise questions the discussion of which was wholly unforeseen and
had not been prepared for. A good deal of trouble was, for instance,
caused on a certain occasion owing to the question of armament for
Russia being brought up at one of the Chantilly Conferences which used
to take place from time to time, without our having a delegate present
who was posted up in the actual situation with regard to this
particular problem. The Russians had, shortly before, put forward
requests that we should furnish them with a very big consignment
indeed of heavy guns and howitzers--somewhere about 600 pieces of
sorts. We had no intention of falling in with this somewhat
extravagant demand; but we had more or less promised about 150.
However, at a meeting of a Sub-Committee on munitions delegated by
this particular Chantilly Conference, only General Maurice, who was
not concerned in munitions details nor aware of the actual facts,
represented us; and at this meeting the Russians and French mentioned
in the course of the discussion that we had promised 600 pieces. Not
fully acquainted with the position, General Maurice did not contradict
the assertion. This caused some difficulty, because on later occasions
the French and Russians would say, "But you agreed to furnish 600 at
Chantilly," and would produce the protocol of the meeting. Similarly,
we were regularly rushed into a Conference at Paris over Greek
supplies in the autumn of 1917--the subject has already been mentioned
on p. 216, and it will be referred to again farther on in this
volume--without knowing what the business was about. Greek supplies
and our connection with them were consequently in a shocking tangle
for months to come.

There was one of these international gatherings, one that was held in
Mr. Lloyd George's room in the War Office about November 1916 when he
was Secretary of State for War, of which I have a vivid recollection.
M. Albert Thomas and General Dall' Olio, the respective Munitions
Ministers in France and Italy, had come over, accompanied by several
assistants; and the Russian Military Attaché from Paris with several
representatives of the special Russian Commission in England were
present, as well as the Head of the Roumanian Military Mission in
France. The Russians, Roumanians and Italians all, needless to say,
wanted to get as much as they could out of us, and the French were
quite ready to back the Russians and Roumanians up. Mr. Lloyd George
made a tip-top chairman, conciliatory and, thanks to ignorance of
French, always unable to understand what was said when it happened to
be inconvenient to grasp the purport. At one juncture M. Thomas and
General Dall' Olio came rather to loggerheads over something or other,
steel I think. Had they been Britishers, one would have been preparing
to slip under the table so as to be out of harm's way; but Latin
nations are more gesticulatory than we are, and this sort of
effervescence does not mean quite so much with them as it does when it
shows a head amongst us frigid islanders. Just when the illustrious
pair of Ministers were inclined to get a little out of temper, arguing
of course in French, Mr. Lloyd George burst out laughing, threw
himself back in his chair and ejaculated, "Now will some kind friend
tell me what all that's about!" He had touched exactly the right note.
Everybody beamed. The disputants burst out laughing too, harmony was
completely restored, and the discussion was conducted thenceforward in
friendliest fashion.

By far the most interesting feature, however, about this pow-wow, and
several others, was provided by the interventions of M. Mantoux, the
gifted interpreter who used to come over from Paris, and of whom I
believe great use was made at Conferences at various times at
Versailles. His performance on such occasions was a veritable _tour de
force_. He never took a note. He waited till the speaker had finished
all that he wanted to say--and your statesman generally has an
interminable lot to say--whether it was in French or in English. He
then translated what had been said into the other language--English or
French as the case might be--practically word for word. His memory,
quite apart from his abnormal linguistic aptitudes, was amazing. Nor
was that all. He somehow contrived, almost automatically it seemed, to
imitate the very gestures and the elocution of the speakers. M. Thomas
is troubled with a rather unruly wisp of hair which, when he gets
wrought up in fiery moments, will tumble down over his brow into his
eyes, to be swept back every now and again with a thrust of the hand
accompanied by a muttered exclamation, presumably a curse. Rendering
M. Thomas into English, M. Mantoux would sweep back an imaginary wisp
of hair with an imprecation which I am confident was a "damn!" Then
again, no man can turn on a more irresistibly ingratiating smile when
he is getting the better of the other fellow than Mr. Lloyd George,
and he has mastered a dodge of at such moments sinking his voice to a
wheedling pitch calculated to coax the most suspicious and
recalcitrant of listeners into reluctant concurrence. M. Mantoux would
reproduce that smile to admiration, and his tones when translating Mr.
Lloyd George's seductive blandishments into French were enough to
cajole a crocodile.



CHAPTER XIII

A FIRST MISSION TO RUSSIA

     Reasons for Mission -- An effectual staff officer -- Our
     distinguished representatives in Scandinavia -- The journey --
     Stockholm -- Lapps -- Crossing the frontier at Haparanda --
     Arrival at Petrograd -- Sir G. Buchanan -- Interviews with
     General Polivanoff, Admiral Grigorovitch and M. Sazonoff --
     Imperial vehicles -- Petrograd -- We proceed to the Stavka --
     Improper use of the title "Tsar" -- The Imperial headquarters --
     Meeting with the Emperor -- Two disconcerting incidents --
     Nicholas II. -- His charm -- His admiration for Lord Kitchener's
     work -- Conference with General Alexeieff -- Mohileff -- Service
     in the church in honour of the Grand Duchess Tatiana's birthday
     -- Return to Petrograd -- A rencontre with an archbishop -- The
     nuisance of swords -- Return home.


In spite of the _débâcle_ which had taken place in the early summer of
1915, the information coming to hand from Russia in the War Office
later in the year was not wholly discouraging. It became apparent that
a strenuous effort was being made to repair the mischief. Marked
energy was being displayed locally in developing the output of
munitions and war material of all kinds. This, coupled with the
unequivocal confidence that was manifestly being displayed in Lord
Kitchener by the Emperor, the Grand Duke Nicholas, and the leading
statesmen of our great eastern Ally whether they belonged to the
Government or not, gave promise that the vast empire, with its
swarming population and its boundless internal resources, might yet in
the course of time prove a tremendous asset on the side of the
Entente.

We had, however, never established a very satisfactory understanding
with the Russian General Staff. A number of British officers of high
rank had gone out to pay more or less complimentary visits, but
rather more than that appeared to be needed. I had been thinking in
the latter part of 1915 that some steps ought to be taken in this
direction, and so, when it became known that Sir W. Robertson was
shortly coming over to become C.I.G.S. at the War Office, which would
assuredly mean other important changes of personnel, I wrote to him
suggesting that I should go out and talk things over with General
Alexeieff, the Russian Chief of the General Staff. After Sir William
had taken over charge and had considered the matter, he agreed, and he
gave me practically a free hand as regards making known our views,
only stipulating that I should return promptly and report to him.

One of the many active and capable members on its rolls, Captain R. F.
Wigram, was picked out from the Director of Military Operations' staff
to perform the functions of Staff Officer and A.D.C. He possessed the
merit amongst many others of being young and of looking younger, and
he lost no time in exhibiting his remarkable fitness for the post. For
without one moment's hesitation he bereft his club in Pall Mall of the
services of a youth of seventeen, who by some mysterious process
became eighteen then and there, whom he converted into a private of
Foot, whom he fitted out with a trousseau extracted from the Ordnance
Department that a Prince of the Blood proceeding to the North Pole
might have coveted, and who thus, as by the stroke of a magician's
wand, became transformed into an ideal soldier-servant. We made our
way north-eastwards via Newcastle, Bergen and Stockholm, round the
north of the Gulf of Bothnia, and thence on through Finland to
Petrograd. Traversing the chilly northern waters between the Tyne and
the Norse fiords, it became possible to appreciate to some very small
degree what months of watching for a foe who could not be induced to
leave port on the surface must have meant to the sister service and to
its wonderful auxiliaries drawn from the Mercantile Marine. For if
there is a more dismal, odious, undisciplined stretch of ocean on
the face of the globe than the North Sea, it has not been my
ill-fortune to have had to traverse it.

Our Foreign Office has served as a butt for a good deal of criticism
of late years, some of which has perhaps not been wholly undeserved.
But whether it was by design or was the result of some happy accident,
Downing Street managed to be most efficiently represented at the
courts of northern Europe during the epoch of the Great War. Sir G.
Buchanan's outstanding services in Russia are now recognized on all
hands--even apparently by H.M. Government. But the country also owes
much to Sir E. Howard and to Sir M. Findlay, who represented us so
worthily in Sweden and Norway during periods of exceptional stress and
difficulty. It was a real pleasure when passing backwards and forwards
through Scandinavia to meet these two strong men who were so
successfully keeping the flag flying, to discuss with them the course
of events, to be made acquainted with the peculiar problems that were
constantly confronting them, to note the marked respect in which they
were held on all hands, and to enjoy the hospitality of two typical
English homes planted down in a foreign land. On one occasion Sir E.
Howard was good enough to make special arrangements for me to meet the
Russian and French Ministers at Stockholm and the French Military
Attaché at luncheon at the Legation, thereby enabling us to examine
into a number of points of common interest.

Bergen was reputed to be a regular hotbed of German spydom, and
apparently with justice. A party of Russian officers coming over on a
mission to this country and France some months later were taken off
the Bergen-Newcastle packet by a U-boat. The commander of the U-boat
had a list of their names, with ranks and everything in order, and he
knew all about his prisoners. One officer was overlooked, and he
brought news of the _contretemps_ to this country; he had, as it
happened, only joined the party at the very last moment as an
afterthought, and the Boche agents at Stockholm and Bergen had
evidently overlooked him on the way through. An idea prevailed over
here that the Swedes in general were decidedly hostile to the Entente;
Stockholm, a cold spot in winter--almost as cold as, but without the
blistering rawness of, Petrograd--was undoubtedly full of Germans, and
the red, white and black colours were freely displayed. But partiality
for the Central Powers seemed in the main to be confined to the upper
classes and to the officers, and, even so, the Swedish officials were
always civility itself. It was indeed much easier to get through the
formalities at Haparanda on the Swedish side of the frontier, going
and coming, than it was at Tornea on the Finnish side, although there
we were honoured guests of the country with special arrangements made
on our behalf. One could not but be impressed by the unmistakable
signs of wealth in Stockholm, where hospitality was being exercised on
the most lavish scale at the leading restaurants and at the palatial
Grand Hotel--no bad place to stop at when you are travelling on
Government service and can send in the bill. The good Swedes (who,
like most other people, have an eye for the main chance) were making
money freely out of both sides in the great contest, although they
were always protesting against our blockading measures.

Travelling is particularly comfortable alike in Norway and in Sweden,
for the sleeping-cars are beyond reproach; owing to snowfalls, the
time-table is, however, a little uncertain during the winter months.
With their eternal pine-woods, Sweden and Finland are dismal enough
regions to traverse in the cold season of the year, although on the
Swedish side the line crosses a succession of uplands divided by deep
valleys, which are probably very picturesque after the melting of the
snows. It was noticeable that all the important viaducts in Sweden
were protected by elaborate zeribas of wire entanglement although the
country was neutral, a form of defensive measure which was much less
noticeable in England and Russia although they were belligerents.
Haparanda is close to the Arctic circle, and there the Lapps were very
much _en evidence_, forming apparently the bulk of the population--the
children astonishingly sturdy creatures, maybe owing to the amount of
clothes that they had on. Lapps did all the heavy work in the way of
sleigh-driving, porterage at the station, and so on; nor did they
manifest much disposition to depreciate the value of their services
when it came to the paying stage.

To the traveller without special credentials, the short journey from
Haparanda to the railway-car at Tornea which is to bear him onwards
must have been almost a foretaste of the Valley of the Shadow of
Death. Even for the members of a military mission with "red
passports," whose advent had been announced, it was one prolonged
agony; and it would probably have been even worse when the intervening
estuaries were not frozen over and when one had to take the ferry. All
the formalities had to be gone through twice over because there was an
island, although the Russian officials were the very pink of courtesy.
One learns a great deal of geography on journeys of this kind; we had
not realized the extent to which Finland, with its special money, its
special language, and its special frontier worries, was distinct from
Russia. The train took three days and nights between Stockholm and
Petrograd, and one was supposed to fetch up at the terminus somewhere
about midnight; but it always took two or three hours to get through
the frontier station between Finland and Russia at the last moment,
with the result that one might arrive at the capital at any hour of
the early morning. When we at last steamed into our destination we
found awaiting us on the platform Count Zamoyski, a great Polish
landowner and A.D.C. to the Emperor, who had been appointed to attend
me, with Colonel Knox, our Military Attaché, and we were driven off in
Imperial carriages to the Hotel d'Europe.

Our object was to reach Mohileff, where Russian General Headquarters,
known as the "Stavka," were stationed. But the Emperor happened to be
away from there just at the moment, so that we were obliged to wait in
Petrograd for two or three days until His Majesty should have
returned. Still, there was plenty to be done and seen in the capital.
In the first place there were the official calls on the Imperial
family to pay; that, however, was merely a case of writing names in
the books for the purpose. Then there was the Embassy to be visited,
to enable me to make the acquaintance of Sir G. Buchanan and the
Embassy staff. Sir George was not in the best of health, and he
obviously stood in need of a rest and change of air--the climate of
Petrograd is trying, making it an undesirable place for prolonged
residence--but the unique position that he held in the eyes of the
Russians of all shades of opinion made it almost impossible for him to
leave the capital. Diplomats as a class are not generally popular in
military circles abroad, and that was perhaps more marked in Russia
than in most countries, but our ambassador was held in extraordinary
esteem even amongst soldiers who only knew him by name. Properly
supported from home, he would have proved a priceless asset when
things were going from bad to worse in the latter part of 1916 and the
early days of 1917.

I had interviews with General Polivanoff, the War Minister, Admiral
Grigorovitch, the Minister of Marine, and M. Sazonoff, the Foreign
Minister. General Polivanoff told me his plans, what he had already
effected and what he still hoped to effect, confirming the favourable
reports that we had received from General Hanbury-Williams and our
Military Attachés as to the efforts that were being made to set the
Russian army on its legs again; he also explained that his friendly
relations with a number of the leading Liberal men of affairs in the
Duma were proving of great assistance in connection with, his
extending the manufacture of war material throughout the country, in
which the "zemstvos" were lending willing aid. With M. Sazonoff I had
a very long and interesting conversation, all the pleasanter owing to
his complete command of English. Like General Polivanoff, he was
sanguine that, given time, Russia would yet play a great rôle in the
war.

In the meantime we were being royally entertained and looked after.
One had heard a great deal about Russia having "gone dry" by ukase;
but the drought was not permitted to cast its blight over guests of
the nation, and our presence ensured that those at the feast would be
enabled to abandon rigid temperance for the moment, an opportunity
which was not missed. Who, after all, ever heard of a pleasant party
round a pump? Imperial carriages, with the servants in gorgeous yellow
livery, all over eagles, were always at our disposal, and traffic was
held up as we passed. This was all very well when you were heading for
a Grand Duke's residence to leave cards, or proceeding to the Embassy;
but you felt rather the beggar on horseback when the object of the
drive was merely to procure a razor-strop at a big store in
replacement of one mislaid on the journey. Your desire was to purchase
the cheapest one that was to be had; but _noblesse oblige_, you simply
had to buy the most expensive one there was, and it was a mercy that
they had not got one set in brilliants. Zamoyski, most lighthearted
and unconventional of companions, was quite happy to remain in
Petrograd in preference to rushing off hot-foot to Mohileff, and he
made everything extremely pleasant for us. Dining at the Yacht Club
one night we met Admiral Phillimore, who had recently arrived on a
naval mission; having commanded the _Inflexible_ at the Falkland
Islands fight and afterwards in the Dardanelles (where he had spent
some anxious hours after his ship had been holed by a drifting mine
during the big fight of the 18th of March), few naval officers of his
rank had enjoyed a more varied experience since the beginning of the
war.

Petrograd is, or was then, in many respects a fine city, adorned by
numbers of imposing buildings and churches; while the view across the
half-mile-wide Neva, with its stately bridges and the famous fortress
of Peter and Paul on the far side, is very impressive. But its winter
climate seemed detestable, cold and tempestuous, accompanied by
intervals of thaw which converted even the most important streets into
unspeakable slush, while the drip from the roofs was moistening and
unpleasant. It has to be confessed that the exhibition of extravagance
apparent on all hands in the capital of an empire large portions of
which were in the hands of a foreign foe, was not altogether edifying;
the atmosphere was so different from that of Paris. Still, there were
not wanting encouraging signs. The soldiers in the streets were smart,
well-set-up, stalwart fellows garbed in excellent uniforms, and the
training carried on on the Marsova Polye (Champ de Mars) near the
Embassy struck one as carried out on excellent lines, particularly the
bayonet work.

After three days' stay we proceeded to Mohileff, leaving at night and
arriving on the following afternoon, to be put up at the hotel where
Hanbury-Williams and the other foreign missions were housed. We dined
and had luncheon at the Emperor's mess while at the Stavka, as always
did the heads of the various foreign missions. Now that the glories of
the House of Romanoff have suffered eclipse consequent upon the
terrible end of Nicholas II. and his family, interest in it has no
doubt to a great extent evaporated. But it may perhaps be mentioned
here that our practice of referring to the Autocrat of All the Russias
as the "Tsar" is incorrect, and the custom indeed seems to have been
almost peculiar to this country. You never heard the terms "Tsar" and
"Tsaritza" employed in Russia, not, at all events, in French; they
were always spoken of as "L'Empereur" and "L'Impératrice," and in the
churches it was always "Imperator." On the other hand, one did hear of
the "Tsarevitch," although he was generally spoken of in French as "Le
Prince Héritier"--rather a mouthful. How we arrived at that
extraordinary misspelling, "Czar" (which is unpronounceable in
English), goodness only knows.

The Emperor and his personal staff occupied a couple of fine
provincial government buildings, which Davoust had made his
headquarters at the time of the battle of Mohileff in 1812, standing
in an enclosure which shut them off from the rather unattractive town
and overlooking the Dneiper. The practice at meals was for the party
to assemble in the antechamber; the Emperor would then come in from
his private apartments, would go round the circle speaking a few words
to some of those present, and would then lead the way into the
dining-room. There, after we had partaken of the national "zakuska"
preceded by a nip of vodka, he presided, sitting in the centre of the
long table with General Pau, the senior foreign officer, generally on
his right, and one of the other foreign officers taken by rote, or
else a visitor, on his left. I understood that General Alexeieff had
excused himself from these somewhat protracted repasts, on the ground
that he really had not the time to devote to them; but one or two
others of the Headquarters Staff were generally present, besides the
Household. After the meal the Emperor would talk for a short time to
some of those present in the antechamber, and would then retire to his
own apartments while we of the foreign missions made our way back to
our hotel.

I was presented to him while he was making his round before dinner on
the first night. That clicking of heels business is highly effective
on such occasions, but it is a perilous practice when you are adorned
with hunting spurs; they have protuberances which have a way of
catching. There is no getting over it--to find, when conversing with
an Emperor, that your feet have become locked together and that if you
stir you will topple forward into his arms, does place you at a
disadvantage. An even worse experience once befell me when on the
staff at Devonport a good many years ago. Our general liked a certain
amount of ceremonial to take place before the troops marched back to
barracks of a Sunday after the parade service at the garrison church;
a staff officer collected the reports and reported to another staff
officer, who reported to a bigger staff officer, and so on; there was
any amount of saluting and of reassuring prattle before the general
was at last made aware that everything was all right. One Sunday it
was my turn to collect the reports and to report to the D.A.A.G. In
those days cocked hats had (and they probably still have) a ridiculous
scrap of ribbed gold-wire lace of prehensile tendencies at their
fore-end--at their prow, so to speak. While exchanging intimate
confidences with the D.A.A.G., the prows of our cocked hats became
interlocked; so there we were, almost nose to nose, afraid to move
lest one or both of us should part with our headgear. But he never
lost his presence of mind. "Hold your infernal hat on with your hand,
man," he hissed, and did the same. We backed away from each other
gingerly, came asunder, and there was no irretrievable disaster; but
the troops (who ought all to have been looking straight to their
front) had apparently been watching our performance with eager
interest, because there was a fatuous grin on the face of every one of
them, officers and all. The colonel of the Rifle Brigade said to me
afterwards that he trusted the staff did not mean to make a hobby of
these knock-about-turns on parade, because if they did it would
undermine the discipline of his battalion.

After dinner the Emperor summoned me into his room and we had a long
conversation. He spoke English perfectly, almost without trace of
foreign accent, and was most cordial, being evidently pleased at the
possibility of a closer understanding being arrived at between his
General Staff and ours. He expressed the hope that I would speak quite
openly to General Alexeieff at the conference which we were to have on
the following day. I sat next to him at dinner that next day after the
conference and he was most anxious to hear my report of it, having
previously seen General Alexeieff and heard what he had to say. The
Emperor had the gift of putting one completely at one's ease on such
occasions, and, being an admirable conversationalist, interested in
everything and ready to talk on any subject, it was a pleasure to be
with him. He spoke most affectionately of our Royal Family--His
Majesty the King had been pleased to entrust me with a private letter
to him--and, referring to the Prince of Wales and Prince Albert, he
remarked what a fine thing it was that they were old enough to take
their share in the Great War, whereas his boy was too young. The
little Tsarevitch had been staying at the Stavka shortly before, and
the foreign officers agreed that he was a bright, intelligent,
mischievous youngster; but the Emperor told me the boy was momentarily
in disgrace. It appeared that they had on a recent occasion been going
to some big parade at the front. At these ceremonials the Emperor, or
whoever is carrying out the inspection, salutes the troops on reaching
the ground by calling out "Good day, brothers"; but the Tsarevitch had
managed to get off before the flag fell and, slipping on in front, had
appeared first and called out, "Good day, brothers," to which the
troops had lustily responded. It had upset the whole business. "The
young monkey!" said the Emperor.

He expressed the utmost detestation of the Germans in consequence of
their shameless conduct in Belgium and France, and he referred in
indignant terms to their treatment of Russian prisoners. If I inquired
of the Austro-Hungarian captives, of whom a number were employed on
road-mending and similar useful labours in Mohileff, I would find, he
said, that they were perfectly contented and were as well looked after
in respect to accommodation and to food as were his own troops. Of
Lord Kitchener and his work he spoke with admiration, and he asked me
many questions about the New Armies, their equipment, their training,
their numbers and so on. He talked with wonder of what our great War
Minister had accomplished in the direction of transforming the United
Kingdom into a first-class military Power in less than a year. In this
respect he, however, merely reflected the opinion held in military
circles right throughout Russia; one heard on all hands eulogy of the
miracles that had been accomplished in this direction. His Imperial
Majesty was also most appreciative of what our War Office was doing
towards assisting the Russians in the all-important matter of war
material, and he asked me to convey his thanks to all concerned for
their loyalty and good offices.

General Alexeieff had likewise pronounced himself most cordially with
regard to Lord Kitchener, his achievements and his aid to Russia, at
the conference which Hanbury-Williams and I had had with him that
afternoon. The general was not a scion of the aristocracy, as were so
many of the superior officers in the Emperor Nicholas's hosts; he
could not talk French although he evidently could follow what was said
in that language. He said he did not know German, so we had to work
through an interpreter, an officer of the General Staff, employing
French. Alexeieff was very pleasant to deal with, as he expressed
himself freely, straightforwardly and even bluntly with regard to the
various points that we touched upon. Our meeting was taking place late
in January 1916, and at a moment when active operations on both the
Western and the Eastern Front were virtually at a standstill; but he
was anxious to know when we should be in a position to assume the
offensive on a great scale, and he seemed disappointed when I said
that, merely expressing my own personal opinion, I doubted whether we
should be ready to do much before the summer, as so many of our New
Army divisions were short of training and as we were still in arrear
to some extent in the matter of munitions. As a matter of fact, the
great German offensive against Verdun was rather to settle this
question for us; for it kept the French on the defensive and General
Joffre was not obliged to call upon Sir D. Haig for aid, which allowed
our troops just that comparative leisure (apart from holding the line)
that enabled them to prepare for the Battle of the Somme.

Mohileff was reputed to be about the most Jewish township in Russia,
and, judging by the appearance of the inhabitants, that reputation was
not undeserved. One had heard a lot about pogroms in the past, but
they would not appear to be of the really thoroughgoing sort. It is an
unattractive spot in the winter-time in spite of its effective
position, emplaced on a plateau with the Dneiper winding round two
sides of it in a deep trough. Hanbury-Williams was a great walker,
always anxious for exercise, and each afternoon we wandered out
somewhere in the snow for a constitutional; the Emperor used to do the
same, but he always motored a good way out into the country before
starting on his tramp. The only exercise that the other foreign
officers ever seemed to take consisted in motoring backwards and
forwards between the hotel and the Imperial headquarters for meals. It
is wonderful how any of them survived.

The last forenoon that we spent there, a special service took place in
the principal church in honour of the Grand Duchess Tatiana's
birthday; and the foreign missions received a hint to go, it being
understood that the Emperor proposed to be present in person. This,
however, proved to be a false alarm. The service began at 10 A.M., and
we went at 11.30 A.M. and stayed till noon; it was still going on at
that time, and we understood that they were only in the middle of it.
Even half an hour of this was something of an ordeal, seeing that the
church was overheated (as Russian interiors always are), that we had
our furs on, and that we had to choose between standing or else
kneeling down on the stone floor. Services of the Orthodox Church are
not unimpressive even when one cannot follow them; the Chief Priest at
Mohileff had a real organ voice and made the very most of it; he was
almost deafening indeed at times. The prayers appeared to be devoted
entirely to the welfare of the Imperial family; at all events the
names of the Emperor, of the Empress, of the Empress Marie, of the
Tsarevitch and of the Grand Duchess herself were thundered out every
minute or two--they were the only words that I could understand
Listening to the priest's sonorous incantation reverberating through
the building that morning, one little dreamt that within less than two
years' time the winsome princess--her photograph was to be seen
everywhere in the Petrograd streets and she seemed to be especially
popular--whose day we were engaged in celebrating, would have been
foully done to death by miscreants in some remote eastern spot of
Russia.

We left for Petrograd in the evening, and shortly after the train got
under way a message came to hand to say that the Archbishop of
Petrograd was on board and hoped that I would pay him a visit in his
compartment. At the first hint of this, Wigram, being a man of
resource, went to sleep in self-protection; so only Zamoyski and I
proceeded to His Grace's lair. It turned out that the Archbishop could
not speak French, so that conversation had to be carried on through
Zamoyski. Our host, as is usual, sent for tea, and we spent about half
an hour talking about the war, the Emperor, Lord Kitchener and other
matters. His Grace, however, intimated that he was particularly
interested in the possibility of a union being effected between the
Orthodox and the Anglican Churches, and he expressed himself as most
anxious to have my opinion on the subject. Now this was not a matter
that I should have felt myself especially competent to debate at a
moment's notice even in English; but, seeing that the discussion was
being conducted in French, with a Pole as intermediary who happened to
be a Roman Catholic, the perplexities of the situation were
appreciably aggravated. A safe line to take, however, was to declare
that a union such as was proposed would be all to the good, and the
Archbishop pronounced himself as much gratified to find that I was
entirely in accord with him. He said something to his secretary, who
disappeared and turned up again presently with a beautiful little gold
pectoral cross and chain which His Grace presented me with, Zamoyski
receiving a smaller replica. When we got back to our own carriage and
the Staff Officer saw what we had carried off, he intimated his
intention of keeping awake in future when high dignitaries of the
Church were about.

Swords, it may here be mentioned, were a regular nuisance to British
officers visiting the dominions of the Emperor Nicholas during all the
earlier months of the war. The Russians had not, like the French,
Belgians and Italians, copied our practice, acquired during the South
African War, of putting away these symbols of commissioned authority
for the time being. They were not worn actually at the front; but
officers were supposed to appear in them elsewhere just as used to be
the invariable practice on the Continent in pre-war days. That our
airmen should not possess swords took the Russians quite aback, a
sabre being about as appropriate in an aeroplane as are spurs on a
destroyer. Transporting a sword through Sweden was apt to stamp you as
a belligerent officer, so that all sorts of dodges had to be contrived
to camouflage an article of baggage that, owing to its dimensions,
refuses to lend itself to operations of concealment. Wigram's absurd
weapon gave us away as a matter of course, although no harm befell. I
was all right on the journey, because General Wolfe-Murray, who had
recently been out on a visit to present decorations, had left his at
the Embassy at Petrograd for the use of any other general who might
come along later. It, however, was one of the full-dress,
scimitar-shaped variety that has been affected by our general officers
ever since one of them brought back a richly jewelled sample, the gift
of Soliman the Magnificent or some other Grand Turk for a service at
Belgrade. It is not a pattern of sabre designed to fit readily into
the frog of a Sam Brown belt, and it used to be a regular business
getting my borrowed one off and on when one went to a meal in a club
or a restaurant in Petrograd.

Most cordial invitations had been extended to us to visit the front.
But this must have involved several days' delay. It was not always
easy to get a move on in Russia, and no great value was set upon the
element of time; so that, although such a trip would assuredly have
been interesting and it might have been instructive, we were obliged
to decline. Instructions ran that I was to return to London as soon as
possible after visiting the Stavka. We consequently spent only
twenty-four hours in Petrograd before taking the train back for
Tornea, and thence via Stockholm and Christiania to Bergen; we,
however, stayed for a few hours in each of the Scandinavian capitals.
Since quitting Bergen about three weeks earlier a sore misfortune had
befallen the place, for a great part of the best quarter of the town
had been destroyed in a disastrous conflagration which had obliterated
whole streets. But the flames fortunately had not reached the railway
station, nor yet the quays on the side of the harbour where the
steamers berthed, so that transit was not appreciably interfered with.
We were back at the War Office within four weeks of setting out,
having only passed ten days actually within the Russian Empire.



CHAPTER XIV

A SECOND MISSION TO RUSSIA

     Object of this second mission -- The general military situation
     -- Verdun and Kut -- Baron Meyendorff -- We partially adopt
     Russian uniform -- Stay in Petrograd -- Sir Mark Sykes --
     Presentation of decorations at the Admiralty -- Mohileff --
     Conference with General Alexeieff -- He raises the question of an
     expedition to Alexandretta -- Asks for heavy artillery -- The
     Emperor -- A conversation with him -- The dismissal of Polivanoff
     -- Disquieting political conditions in Russia -- Nicholas II.'s
     attitude -- The journey to Tiflis -- We emerge from the snow near
     the Sea of Azov -- Caucasia -- Tiflis -- General Yanushkhevitch
     -- Conference with the Grand Duke Nicholas -- Proposes that we
     should smash Turkey -- Constantinople? -- Major Marsh -- The
     Grand Duke -- Presenting the G.C.M.G. to General Yudenitch -- Our
     stay at Tiflis -- Proceed to Batoum -- A day at Batoum -- Visit
     to the hospital ship _Portugal_ -- Proceed by destroyer to Off --
     Sinking of the _Portugal_ -- Off -- General Liakoff -- A ride to
     the scene of a very recent fight -- A fine view -- The field
     force dependent upon maritime communications -- Landing
     difficulties -- Return to Tiflis -- A gala dinner at the palace
     -- Journey to Sarikamish -- Russian pronunciation of names --
     Kars -- Greeting the troops -- One of the forts -- Welcome at
     Sarikamish -- General Savitzky -- Russian hospitality -- The myth
     about Russians being good linguists -- A drive in a blizzard --
     Colonel Maslianikoff describes his victory over the Turks in
     December 1914, on the site of his command post -- Our visit to
     this part of the world much appreciated -- A final interview with
     the Grand Duke -- Proceed to Moscow -- The Kremlin -- View of
     Moscow from the Sparrow Hills -- Visit to a hospital --
     Observations on such visits -- A talk with our acting
     Consul-General -- Back to Petrograd -- Conclusions drawn from
     this journey through Russia -- Visit to Lady Sybil Grey's
     hospital -- A youthful swashbuckler -- Return home -- We
     encounter a battle-cruiser squadron on the move.


We made a fresh start for Russia by the same route about three weeks
later, the party swelled by Captain Guy MacCaw, Hanbury-Williams'
staff officer, who had been home on leave. Sir W. Robertson wished me
to see General Alexeieff again, and then to proceed to Tiflis to
discuss the position of affairs with the Grand Duke Nicholas and his
staff. H.M. the King desired that this opportunity should also be
taken to present the G.C.M.G. to General Yudenitch, who a short time
before had achieved a brilliant success in Armenia in the capture of
Erzerum almost in midwinter, and also to the Minister of Marine in
Petrograd.

The general military situation was not at this time wholly reassuring.
It was known that a great German attack upon Verdun was imminent. We
had our own special anxieties in Asia owing to the unfortunate turn
taken by affairs in Mesopotamia. News had come of the failure of the
attempt to relieve Kut by an advance on the right bank of the Tigris,
and this, following upon a similar failure some weeks earlier on the
left bank, rendered the conditions decidedly ominous. A study of the
large-scale maps and of the available reports at the War Office, had
served to indicate that the prospects of saving the beleaguered
garrison were none too hopeful, even allowing for the fact that
General Maude's division, fresh from Egypt and the Dardanelles, was
bringing welcome reinforcements to Sir P. Lake. Whatever plan should
be adopted for the final effort, this must inevitably partake of the
character of attacking formidable entrenchments with but limited
artillery support, and of having to carry out a difficult operation of
war against time. The Grand Duke Nicholas had expressed a readiness to
help from the side of Persia, but little consideration was needed to
establish the fact that effective aid from that quarter was virtually
out of the question. Situated as the Russian forces were in the Shah's
territories, they would be in the position of having either to advance
in considerable strength and to be starved, or to move forward as a
weak column and to meet with disaster at the hands of the Turks on the
plains of Irak.

One read at Stockholm on the way through of the early successes gained
by the Germans at Verdun, the news sounding by no means encouraging;
so that it was a great relief on arriving in Petrograd to find that
the heroic French resistance before the fortress had brought the
enemy's vigorous thrust practically to a standstill. We met Sir A.
Paget at Tornea on his way back from handing, to the Emperor his baton
of British Field-Marshal. There we also found Colonel Baron Meyendorff
awaiting us, who had been deputed to accompany me during my travels.
The Emperor was absent from the Stavka when we arrived at the capital,
with the consequence that we were detained there for several days. As
we were to make a somewhat prolonged stay in the country this time we
fitted ourselves out with the Russian cap and flat silver-lace
shoulder-straps; the Grand Duke Nicholas had indeed insisted, when he
was Commander-in-Chief, upon foreign officers when at the front
wearing these distinctive articles of Russian uniform as a protection.
Cossacks are fine fellows, but they were apt to be hasty; their plan,
when they came across somebody whose identity they felt doubtful
about, was to shoot first and to make inquiries afterwards.

Meyendorff, who was married to an English lady and who spoke our
language fairly well, looked after us assiduously and provided us with
occupation and amusement during the stay at the capital. One day he
took us to see trotting matches, a very popular form of sport in
Petrograd although it struck me as rather dull. We dined at different
clubs, went to the Ballet one night, and another night were taken to
the Opera where we occupied the Imperial box in the middle of the
house. In those days Russian society thoroughly understood the art of
welcoming a guest of the country, for the different national anthems
of the Allied Powers were played through before the Second Act,
everybody standing up, and when it came to the turn of "God save the
King," the entire audience wheeled round to face the Imperial box, our
national anthem was played twice over, and I received a regular
ovation although all that those present can have known, or cared, was
that here was a British general turned up on some official business.
One result of wearing what amounted to a very good imitation of
Russian uniform was that officers and rank and file all saluted,
instead of staring at one in some surprise; it was the rule for
non-commissioned officers and private soldiers when they met a general
to pull up and front before saluting; this looked smart, but it was
rather a business when one promenaded along the Nevski Prospekt which
always swarmed with the military. It was, moreover, the custom in
restaurants, railway dining-cars, etc., for officers who were present
when a general came in, not only to rise to their feet (if anywhere
near where the great man settled down), but also to crave permission
to proceed with their meal. This was a little embarrassing until one
realized that a gracious wave of the hand to indicate that they might
carry on was all that was called for.

The late Sir Mark Sykes had worked under me in Whitehall since an
early date in the war; his knowledge of the Near East was so valuable
that I had been obliged to detain him and to prevent his going to
France in command of his Territorial battalion, much to his
disappointment. Latterly, however, he had been acting for the Foreign
Office, although under the aegis of the War Office as this plan was
found convenient. He was now in Petrograd in connection with certain
negotiations dealing with the future of Turkey in Asia, and as it was
desirable that he should visit the Stavka and also Transcaucasia, he
attached himself to me for the time being.

One forenoon before leaving for Mohileff I proceeded, accompanied by
our Naval Attaché, Meyendorff and Wigram, to the Admiralty to present
the G.C.M.G. to the Minister of Marine and the K.C.M.G. to the Chief
of the Naval Staff. It seemed desirable to make as much of a ceremony
of the business as possible--British decorations were, indeed, very
highly prized in Russia; warning had therefore been sent that we were
coming, and why. On arriving we were met at the gates by several
naval officers, and were conducted to outside the door of the
Minister's room where the presentation was to take place. One then
assumed the simper of the diplomatist, Wigram (who always managed to
turn pink on dramatic occasions, which had a particularly good effect)
bore the cases containing the insignia, the door was flung open, and
we marched solemnly in. I addressed the recipients in my best French,
saying that His Majesty had entrusted me with the pleasant duty, and
so on, finishing up with my personal congratulations and by handing
over the cases. The recipients replied in suitable terms, expressing
their gratification and their thanks; we had a few minutes'
conversation, and were introduced to the other officers present--there
were quite a lot--and we then cleared out, escorted to our gorgeous
Imperial carriages by some of the junior officers. The Naval Attaché
spoilt the whole thing by remarking afterwards, "You know, general,
those Johnnies know English just as well as you do." It was most
inconsiderate of him, and he may not have been right; Russian naval
officers down Black Sea way did not seem to know English or even
French.

On this second occasion we only spent twenty-four hours at Mohileff;
the interview with General Alexeieff was successfully brought off on
the first afternoon, MacCaw accompanying me as he understood Russian
thoroughly, although a General Staff Officer interpreted. I told
Alexeieff that our chances of relieving Kut appeared to be slender,
and that he ought to be prepared for its fall although there was still
hope. He thereupon raised the question of our sending a force to near
Alexandretta, so as to aid the contemplated Russian campaign in
Armenia. Such a project was totally opposed to the views of Sir W.
Robertson and our General Staff, and it had at the moment--late in
March--nothing to recommend it at all, apart from the point of view of
the Armenian operations. Although Lord Kitchener and Sir J. Maxwell
had been a little nervous about Egypt during the winter, the General
Staff at the War Office had felt perfectly happy on the subject in
view of the garrison assembled there after the evacuation of the
Gallipoli Peninsula. Now that spring was at hand, any prospect of
serious Turkish attempts across the Sinai Desert was practically at an
end as the dry months were approaching. Troops sent to the Gulf of
Iskanderun at this stage--to get them there must take some
weeks--could not possibly aid Kut, even indirectly. Such side-shows
were totally at variance with our General Staff's views concerning the
proper conduct of the Great War. We wished the Russians well, of
course, in their Armenian operations, and as they held the Black Sea
there appeared to be every prospect of their achieving a considerable
measure of success. But nothing that happened in that part of the
world would be likely to exercise any paramount influence over the
decision of the conflict as a whole.

Alexeieff suggested our transferring troops from Salonika to
Alexandretta. I do not think that he fully realized what that kind of
thing meant in time, shipping, and so on; but it was pointed out to
him that the French would disapprove of such a move owing to the
importance they attached to the Macedonian affair, while, as for us,
if we took away part of our forces from Salonika we would want to send
them to France to fight the Germans, not to dissipate them on
non-essentials. It was also pointed out that there were very serious
naval objections to starting a brand-new campaign based on the Gulf of
Iskanderun, that the tonnage question was beginning to arouse anxiety,
and that Phillimore (who was at the Stavka at the time) would
certainly endorse this contention. The Russian C.G.S. was not quite
convinced, I am afraid. In the course of the discussion he made a
remark, which was not translated by the interpreter but which MacCaw
told me was to the effect that we could do what he asked perfectly
easily if we liked. That was true enough. We could have deposited an
army at Ayas Bay, no doubt, and could have secured its maritime
communications while it was ashore; but we would have been playing
entirely the wrong game, wasting military resources, and throwing a
strain upon the Allies' sea-power without any adequate justification.
Still, our conference was throughout most amicable. Alexeieff
expressed confidence as regards effecting a powerful diversion on the
Eastern Front during the summer; but he begged me to try to extract
some of our heavy howitzers for him out of our War Office, as he was
terribly handicapped, he said, for want of that type of artillery. It
was the last that I was to see of this eminent soldier and patriot,
who died some time in 1918, broken down under the exertion and anxiety
of trying to save his country from the horrors of Bolshevik
ascendancy.

The Emperor, as I sat next to him at dinner in the evening, referred
to Alexandretta; he had evidently seen Alexeieff in the meantime. He
also begged me to press the question of heavy howitzers for Russia at
home. He asked a good deal about Sir W. Robertson, and he commented on
the fact that two soldiers who had enjoyed no special advantages such
as are not uncommon in the commissioned ranks of most armies,
Robertson and Alexeieff, should have been forced to the front under
the stern pressure of war and should now be simultaneously Chiefs of
the General Staff in England and Russia. He spoke of the possibility
of Lord Kitchener visiting Russia now that his labours at our War
Office were somewhat lightened. He told me that Sykes, who had had a
long discussion with the General Staff about Armenia and Kurdistan,
had enormously impressed those who had heard him by his knowledge of
the geography and the people of those regions, and he asked why, when
Wigram and I were wearing the Russian shoulder-straps, Sykes was not;
he evidently liked our doing so. The Grand Duke Serge, who was
Inspector-General of the Artillery, was staying with the Emperor; he
also spoke about the urgent need of heavy howitzers, saying that he
hoped within a few months to be on velvet as regards field-guns and
ammunition, but that aid with the heavier natures of ordnance must
come from outside.

In conversations that we had at Mohileff, Hanbury-Williams expressed
himself as somewhat anxious about the internal situation in Russia.
General Polivanoff had recently been dismissed from his post as War
Minister in spite of the good that he had effected within a very few
months, and this was simply the result of a Court intrigue against an
official who was known to have Liberal tendencies and was a _persona
grata_ with leading spirits in the Duma. That kind of attitude was
calculated to arouse dissatisfaction, not merely amongst the educated
portion of the community in general, but also in the ranks of the
army; for in military circles the extent to which the troops had been
sacrificed as a result of gross misconduct in connection with the
provision of war material was bitterly resented. The losses suffered
by the nation in the war already amounted to a huge figure, and
although at this time the people at large probably held no very
pronounced views on the subject of abandoning the contest, there
undoubtedly was discontent. Under such circumstances, statesmanship
imperatively demanded that mutual confidence should be maintained
between the Court and Government on the one side, and the leaders of
popular opinion on the other side. The removal of Polivanoff, who was
doing so well, was just the kind of act to antagonize the educated
classes and the military. Suspicion, moreover, existed that some of
those in high places were not uncontaminated by German influence and
were pro-German at heart.

No reasonable doubt has ever existed amongst those behind the scenes
that the Emperor personally was heart and soul with the Allies: but
that did not hold good, there is every ground for believing, amongst
some of those with whom he was closely associated. No stranger brought
into contact with Nicholas II. could help being attracted by his
personal charm; but he was a reactionary surrounded by ultra-reactionaries
and evil counsellors, who played upon his superstitions and his
belief in the Divine Right of Kings and who brought him to his ruin
together with his country. One had heard much in the past of the
veneration in which Russians of all ranks and classes held their
Sovereign as a matter of course. But, when brought into contact with
Russian officers in 1916, one speedily realized that the Emperor
Nicholas had lost his hold upon the affections of the army. Not that
they spoke slightingly of him--they merely appeared to take no
interest in him, which was perhaps worse. As for the Empress, there
was little concealment in respect to her extreme unpopularity.
Rasputin I never heard mentioned by a Russian in Russia; but one knew
all about that sinister figure from our own people.

Owing to a telegram that he received in connection with his special
negotiations, Sykes left hurriedly that night, making straight for
Tiflis, and I did not see him again in Russia. We, on the other hand,
returned to Petrograd for a day or two. There were special entrances,
with rooms attached, for the Imperial family at all the Petrograd
stations and also at stations in important cities like Moscow and
Rostoff; we were always conducted to and from the trains through
these, which was much pleasanter than struggling along with the crowd.
For the journey to Transcaucasia we were provided with a special car
of our own. In this we lived except when actually at Tiflis--a much
more comfortable arrangement than going to hotels at places like
Batoum and Kars; we each had a double compartment to ourselves, and
another was shared by our soldier-servant with one of the Imperial
household, who accompanied us in the capacity of courier, interpreter
and additional servant. There is no getting away from it, travelling
under these somewhat artificial conditions has its points. As far as
the Don we used the ordinary dining-cars; but beyond that point
dining-cars did not run, and meals were supposed to be taken at the
station restaurants. For us, however, cook, meal and all used to come
aboard our car and travel along to some station farther on, where the
cook would be shot out with the debris; it was admirably managed,
however it was done, and was more the kind of thing one expects in
India than in Europe. Although our soldier-servant had never been on
parade in his life (I had taught him to salute when at Petrograd by
making him salute himself in front of the big glass in my room, a plan
worth any amount of raucous patter from the drill-sergeant), the very
fact of his being in khaki seemed to turn him into a Russian scholar
by that mysterious process adopted by British soldiers in foreign
lands. Wigram had a grammar, and I had known a little Russian in the
past; but in the absence of Meyendorff and the courier neither Wigram
nor I could get what we wanted, while the soldier-servant could.

Having seen nothing but everlasting dreary white expanses since
quitting the immediate environs of Petrograd, except where the railway
occasionally passed through some township, it was pleasant to find the
snow gradually disappearing as one approached the Sea of Azov near
Taganrog. Then, after crossing the Don at Rostoff, where extensive
railway works were in progress and a fine new bridge over the great
river was in course of construction, we found ourselves in a balmy
spring atmosphere, although it was only the end of March. From there
on to the Caspian the railway almost continuously traversed vast
tracts of corn-land, the young crop just beginning to show above
ground; at dawn the huge range of the Caucasus, its glistening summits
clear of clouds, made a glorious spectacle. In this part of the
country oil-fuel was entirely used on the locomotives, and at Baku,
where the petroleum oozes out of the sides of the railway cuttings,
and beyond that city, the whole place reeked of the stuff. If you fell
into the error of touching anything on the outside of the car, a
doorhandle or railing, you could not get your hand clean again any
more than Lady Macbeth. We arrived at Tiflis late one afternoon,
having taken within three or four hours of five complete days on the
run from Petrograd. There we were met by a crowd of officers, and were
conducted to a hotel.

Next morning we paid a number of formal visits. General
Yanushkhevitch, Chief of the Staff, had held that same position when
the Grand Duke Nicholas had been commander-in-chief at the Stavka.
Tall, handsome and debonair, he was a man whom it was a pleasure to
meet, although he may not perhaps intellectually have been quite equal
to the great responsibilities placed on his shoulders in the early
days of the war. This distinguished soldier of very attractive
personality was murdered by revolutionaries while travelling by
railway somewhere near Petrograd in 1917. General Yudenitch, we found,
happened to be in Tiflis, and at the call that we paid him I arranged
to present him with his order on the following morning.

I had a prolonged interview with the Grand Duke at the palace during
the course of the day. He was not only Commander-in-Chief in
Transcaucasia but was also Governor-General, and he told me that civil
duties took up more of his time than military duties. Like Alexeieff,
and probably by arrangement with the Stavka, he raised the question of
our sending a force to near Alexandretta, and he put in a new plea for
which I was not quite prepared. As he spoke at considerable length it,
however, gave one time to think. He maintained that the right policy
for the Allies to adopt was to knock the Turks out for good and to
have done with them, expressing the opinion that it would not be
difficult to induce them to make peace once they had undergone a good
hammering. I replied that there appeared to be political problems
involved in this which were quite outside my province, but that
certain obvious factors came into the question. The prospects of
prevailing upon the Sublime Porte to come to terms hinged upon what
those terms were to be, and Constantinople seemed likely to prove a
stumbling-block to an understanding. The Ottoman Government might be
prepared to part with Erzerum and Trebizond and Basrah, and even
possibly Syria and Palestine, but Stamboul and the Straits were quite
a different pair of shoes. H.I.H. gripped my hand and pressed it till
I all but squealed. It was delightful to talk to a soldier who went
straight to the point, said he, but he dashed off on another tack,
asking what were our military objections to the Alexandretta plan; so
I went over much the same ground as had already been gone over at
Mohileff, promising to let him have a memorandum on the subject.

He pronounced himself as most anxious to aid us in Mesopotamia, did
not seem satisfied with what his troops in Persia had accomplished,
and was concerned at my rather pessimistic views with regard to Kut.
Kut actually held out for ten days longer than I had been given to
understand was possible at the War Office. He also conveyed to me a
pretty clear hint that in his view Major Marsh, our Military Attaché
with him, ought to have his status improved. There I was entirely with
him, but did not say so; there had been a misunderstanding with regard
to rank in Russia, for which I, when D.M.O., had been in a measure
responsible. The fact that there is no equivalent to our grade of
major in Russia had been overlooked. The Military Secretary's
department had all along been ready enough to give subalterns the
temporary rank of captain, or to improve captains into majors; but
they had invariably humped their backs against converting a major into
a lieutenant-colonel for the time being. The consequence was that
there were a lot of newly caught British subalterns doing special jobs
who had been given the rank of captain, and there were a certain
number of captains whom we called temporary majors but who were merely
captains in Russia. Marsh was a real live major of some standing in
the Indian army, with two or three campaigns to his credit and a Staff
College man, and yet at Tiflis he was simply regarded as a captain.
This was put right by the War Office on representation being made.

The Grand Duke spoke confidently as to the forthcoming capture of
Trebizond, for which the plans were nearly ready. Good progress, he
said, was being made by the force which was working forward along the
coast, and he promised that the necessary arrangements should be made
for us to visit the front in that quarter. He was most cordial, and he
made many enquiries about Lord Kitchener for whom he expressed the
highest regard. The interview was an extremely pleasant one, for the
Grand Duke's manner, while dignified and impressive, was at the same
time very winning, and he made it a strong point that I should discuss
everything with him direct although also approving of my holding
consultations with his staff. Sykes' visit, he assured me, was highly
appreciated both by himself and by his experts, who had been
astonished at the knowledge of the country and the people which Sir
Mark had displayed.

Next day the presentation of the G.C.M.G. to General Yudenitch was
successfully brought off; that brilliant soldier was more at home in
the field than in French, and he would probably have dispensed with
all ceremony gladly enough. Scarcely had we got back to the hotel
after the performance when he turned up to call, arrayed in all the
insignia except the collar. He hoped that he had not done wrong in
omitting this, and he was anxious to know when it was supposed to be
put on. He rather had me there, because I did not know; but it was
easy to say that the collar was only worn on very great occasions.
Inside the case containing the Russian order which the Emperor had
handed me at my farewell visit to him before returning home a few
weeks earlier, there had been instructions in French with regard to
the wearing of the different classes of the decoration, a similar plan
might prove useful in these days when British orders are freely
conferred upon foreign officers.

The city of Tiflis and the country around are worth seeing, and as we
had a car at our disposal we made one or two short trips to points of
interest. The Grand Ducal entourage and the staff did all they could
to make our stay pleasant. No Allied general had visited Transcaucasia
since the outbreak of hostilities, so that we were made doubly
welcome. At luncheon at the palace we made the acquaintance of the
Grand Duchess and of several young Grand Duchess nieces of the Grand
Duke's, with whom Wigram proved an unqualified success; in
conversation with these charming young ladies it was only necessary to
mention the name of the Staff Officer and they thereupon did the rest
of the talking. But after three or four days of comparative leisure,
Meyendorff announced that all was ready for us to go on to Batoum, so
we took up our residence in our railway-car again one evening after
dinner and found ourselves by the Black Sea shore next morning.

We were most hospitably entertained at Batoum by the general in
command and his staff, our railway-car being run away into a quiet
siding. We were driven out first to a low-lying coast battery in which
a couple of 10-inch guns had very recently been mounted, and where we
saw detachments at drill; it appeared that the _Breslau_ had paid a
call some four or five months before, had fired a few projectiles into
the harbour and the town, and had then made off; it was hoped to give
her a warm welcome should she repeat her tricks. The emplacement
between the two filled by the 10-inch was occupied by a huge
range-finder, apparently on the Barr and Stroud principle, with very
powerful lenses. We afterwards drove up to one of the forts guarding
the town on the land side, from which a fine view was obtained over
the surrounding country. Then we went on board the hospital ship
_Portugal_. A Baroness Meyendorff, cousin of our Meyendorff, was found
to be matron-in-chief, and she took us all over the vessel, which was
to proceed during the night to pick up wounded at Off, the advanced
base of the force which was moving on Trebizond and which we were to
visit next day. In the afternoon we had a fine run along an
excellently engineered road up the Tchorok valley, a deep trough in
the mountains. The air in this part of the world seemed delightfully
genial after the rigours of Scandinavia, Petrograd and Mohileff,
reminding one of Algiers in spring; the vegetation was everywhere
luxuriant on the hillsides, the ground was carpeted with wildflowers,
and oranges abounded in the groves around the town.

Up about 3 the next morning, we boarded a destroyer to make the run to
Off, which was eighty-five miles away along the coast, and put off out
of the harbour through the gap in the torpedo-net about dawn. It was a
lovely morning without a breath of air; this was as well perhaps,
because the interior of the vessel, an old-type craft making a
tremendous fuss over going, say, 18 knots, was not particularly
attractive. The officers on board could not speak English or French,
which struck one as odd, but apparently the personnel of the Black Sea
fleet rarely proceeded to other waters--to the Baltic, for instance,
or the Far East. All went smoothly until we were within about a dozen
miles of our destination when a wireless message was picked up
announcing that the _Portugal_ had just been torpedoed and was sinking
close to Off, and asking for help. We cracked on all speed, the craft
straining and creaking as if she would tumble to pieces, and I doubt
if we were making much more than 25 knots then; but by the time that
we reached the scene of the disaster any of the personnel who could be
saved were already on board other vessels and being landed. We learnt
that several of the male personnel and two or three of the nurses,
including the Baroness Meyendorff, had, unhappily, been drowned.

The _Portugal_ was the second hospital ship that I had set foot on
since the beginning of the war, and, like the _East Anglia_ mentioned
on p. 228, she had gone to the bottom within twenty-four hours of my
visit. I determined to give hospital ships a wide berth in future if
possible--I did not bring them luck. With her Red Cross markings she
was perfectly unmistakable; she had been attacked in broad daylight on
an almost glassy sea, and the U-boat commander must have been
perfectly well aware of her identity when he sank her. The tragic
occurrence naturally cast a gloom over Off, where we landed on the
open beach and were met by General Liakoff, commanding the Field
Force, with a numerous staff.

There had been a sharp combat by night some thirty-six hours before,
when the Turks had delivered a most determined onset upon a portion of
the Russian position; it had, indeed, been touch-and-go for a time.
General Liakoff proposed to take us up to the scene of the fight; so
the whole party mounted on wiry Cossack horses and cobs, and the
cavalcade after crossing the little river near Off proceeded to breast
the heights, our animals scrambling up the rugged hill-tracks like
cats, till we reached the summit of a detached spur where the affray
had been the most violent. The enemy had almost surrounded this spur,
and the numerous bodies of dead Turks lying about on the slopes and in
the gullies testified to the severity of the fight; Wigram, whose
experiences of the battlefield had hitherto been limited to a visit to
the Western Front on a special job, was as delighted with these grim
relics as a dog is who has found some abomination in the road.
Quantities of used and unused cartridges, Turkish and Russian, were
strewed about, and it was evident that the defenders had only managed
to hold on by the skin of their teeth. General Liakoff told me that
his troops were especially pleased at their success, as it had
transpired that the assailants were Turks belonging to picked corps
recently arrived from the Gallipoli Peninsula.

The Russian outposts were now on the next ridge, beyond a narrow
valley, and all was quiet at the moment. The views from the spur were
very fine, commanding the coast-line in both directions. Trebizond,
some fifteen miles off but looking to be nearer, glistened white in
the midday sunshine; each patch of level was bright green with growing
corn, the higher hills were still crowned with snow, and the littoral
as a whole in its colouring and its features was the Riviera faced
about and looking north. The general gave me to understand that he
would be unable to advance for some days, as he had to make up his
reserves of supplies; but the Grand Duke had let me know that
considerable reinforcements were to be brought across the Black Sea
before the final attack upon Trebizond took place.

We spent the afternoon down at Off. With recollections of Afghan and
South African accumulations of war material and condiments, one was
struck with the very limited amount of impedimenta and stores which
this Field Force carried with it. The advanced base of a little army
comprising a couple of divisions, with odds and ends, scarcely
exhibited the amount of transport and food dumps that one of our
1901-2 mobile columns on the veldt would display when it was taking a
rest. The weather had been particularly favourable for landing
operations for some days, we were told, and that afternoon a small
freight ship, with a queer elongated prow that enabled her to run her
nose right up on to the beach, was discharging her cargo straight on
to the foreshore. But it was obvious that, with anything like a breeze
blowing home, landing operations at Off would be brought to a
standstill, and that the progress of the campaign was very dependent
upon the moods of the Black Sea. A road was, it is true, being
constructed along the shore from Batoum, and a railway was talked of;
but for the time being the Field Force had to rely almost entirely
upon maritime communications. A different destroyer from the one we
had come in took us back, several of the nurses saved from the
_Portugal_ also being on board, and we got ashore at Batoum after 9
P.M., to find the general and staff anxiously awaiting our arrival in
anticipation of dinner which we travellers were more than ready for.
We returned to Tiflis next day.

We had hoped to make a trip to Erzerum, so famous in the chequered
annals of Russo-Turkish conflicts in Asia; but the thaw had set in on
the uplands of Armenia, the staff at Tiflis said it would be almost
impossible to get a car through the slush for the hundred miles from
the railhead at Sarikamish, and we had no excuse for going other than
curiosity; so the idea was abandoned. It was arranged, however, that
we should proceed to Kars and Sarikamish. A short time elapsed before
we could start, and during this delay we were bidden to a gala dinner
at the palace given in our honour, at which Marsh also was present.
The palace is not a specially imposing building, but it has a fine
broad staircase, and the effect of the Cossacks of the Guard lining
this in their dark red cloaks was very striking. In his speech the
Grand Duke expressed great satisfaction at our visit to Transcaucasia,
as indicating that Russian efforts in this region were appreciated in
England.

From Tiflis up to Kars means a rise of over 4000 feet, and the
locomotives on the line were specially constructed for this climbing
work, having funnels at either end. Whatever may be the case at other
times, Armenia when the snows are melting is a singularly dreary
region, almost treeless and seemingly destitute of vegetation; some of
the scenery along the line was grand enough in a rugged way, however,
and near Alexandropol the railway traversed plateau land with outlook
over a wide expanse of country. Studying the large-scale map, it
looked as if one ought to be able to see Mount Ararat, eighty miles
away to the south, but there was a tiresome hill in the way
obstructing the view in the required direction.

Mention of Alexandropol suggests a reference to the pronunciation of
Russian names, which we always manage to get wrong in this country.
Slavs throw the accent nearer the end of words than we are inclined to
do. Thus in Alexandropol they put the accent on the "dro," not on the
"and" as we should. We always put the accent on the "bas" in
Sebastopol, but the accent properly is on the "to." In Alexeieff the
accent is on the second "e," and in Korniloff it is on the "i." You
will not generally go far wrong if you throw the accent one syllable
farther from the beginning of the word than you naturally would when
speaking English.

Twenty-four hours were spent at Kars, a filthy, but on account of its
associations and of the works being carried on, extremely interesting
place; unfortunately, I was not familiar with the story of Sir Fenwick
Williams' great defence of the stronghold during the Crimean War, for
the old battlements and outworks still existed, if in a ruinous
condition. We were taken all round the place by car, were shown the
elaborate magazines being excavated in the heart of a mountain, and
fetched up at one of the outlying forts in which a large garrison
resided. By this time I was getting quite accustomed to the ceremony
gone through when one met troops on parade or in barracks. You called
out, "Starova bradzye?" which being interpreted apparently means "How
are you, brothers?" There followed an agonizing little pause during
which you had time to think that you had got the thing wrong, had made
an ass of yourself, and were disgraced for evermore. Then they all
sang out in unison, "Wow wow wow-wow wow"--that, at all events, is
what it sounded like. Goodness knows what it meant. One had too much
sense to ask, because one might have got the two sentences mixed,
which would have meant irretrievable disaster. The effect, however,
when there were a lot of troops on the ground was excellent, as they
always performed their share with rare gusto. The rank and file
particularly appreciated a foreign officer giving them the customary
greeting.

The size of the garrison of this outlying fort afforded evidence of
the Russian wealth in man-power. There were a good many guns mounted,
of no great value, and some machine-guns flanked the ditches; but the
amount of personnel seemed out of all proportion to the importance of
the work or the nature of its armament. The men were packed pretty
tight in the casemates, arranged in a double tier, the sojourners on
the upper tier only having the bare boards to lie on. Afterwards we
went out to an entirely new fort which was not yet quite completed,
situated on the plain some six miles from the town. The Russians were
making Kars into a great place of arms on modern lines, and one rather
wondered why.

Continuing the journey in the afternoon, we were met at Sarikamish
station by General Savitzky, commanding the Sixty-sixth Division and
the garrison, with his staff and a swarm of officers. The place had
been the frontier station before the war and was well laid out as an
up-to-date cantonment, although owing to the thaw the mud was
indescribable. The environs constituted almost an oasis in the bleak
Armenian uplands owing to the hills being clothed in pine-woods, and
Sarikamish had the reputation of making a pleasant summer resort,
people coming out from Tiflis to spend a few weeks so as to escape the
heat. We were treated with almost effusive cordiality, dined at the
staff mess that night, and Cossacks gave an exhibition of their
spirited dancing afterwards and sang songs. Of the large number of
officers acting as hosts, only one, unfortunately, could speak French,
so that Meyendorff was kept busy acting as an intermediary.

The idea prevalent in this country that Russians in general are good
linguists, it may here be observed, is a delusion. The aristocracy, no
doubt, all speak French perfectly. In the Yacht Club in Petrograd most
of the members appeared to be quite at home in either French or
English, and no doubt could have chattered away in German if put to
it; but away from the capital and Moscow it was not easy to get on
without a knowledge of Russian. The staff at Sarikamish were anxious
that I should meet the Turkish officer prisoners interned there, as
they believed that a couple of them were Boches and nobody able to
speak German had come along for months; but as it turned out, there
was no time for a meeting.

Next morning we started off in a blizzard to proceed by car some way
in the direction of Erzerum along the high-road over the col which
marked the frontier; the pass would be about 7600 feet above
sea-level; as the elevation of Sarikamish was given as 6700. This
high-road constituted the main line of communications of the Russian
forces in the field beyond railhead, and the traffic along it was
unceasing. With a long, stiff upward incline, there were the usual
sights of broken-down vehicles and of dead animals on all hands; but
the organization appeared to be good, if rough and ready, and the
transport was serviceable enough. Getting the cars along past the
strings of vehicles and animals was no easy job, and it proved a
chilly drive. But the weather brightened, and on the way back we got
out and proceeded on foot to a hill-top of historic interest known as
the "Crow's Nest," above Sarikamish. For it had been the site of
headquarters on the occasion of those very critical conflicts in
December 1914, when the Ottoman commanders had made a determined
effort to break through into Russian Transcaucasia, and when their
plans had only been brought to nought by a most signal combination of
war on the part of the defenders.

There, on the scene of his triumph, Colonel Maslianikov of the 16th
Caucasian Rifle Regiment described to a gathering of us fur-clad
figures how, with his regiment and some other troops hastily scraped
together, he had brought the leading Turkish divisions to a
standstill, largely by pure bluff and by audacious handling of an
inferior force, and so had prepared the way for the dramatic overthrow
of three Osmanli army corps which transformed a situation that had
been full of menace into one which became rich in promise. News of
this dramatic feat of arms reached the War Office at the time, but
without particulars. That the victor of this field, a field won by a
masterpiece of soldiership, should remain a simple colonel, suggested
a singular indifference on the part of authorities at the heart of the
empire to what wardens of the marches accomplished in peace and war.
That pow-wow in an icy blast amid the snow recalled the Grand Duke
Nicholas's appeal to Lord Kitchener that we should make some effort
to take pressure off his inadequate and hard-pressed forces in
Armenia, an appeal which landed us in the Dardanelles Campaign; and it
further recalled the fact that the colonel's feat near Sarikamish had
put an end to all need for British intervention almost before the
Grand Duke made his appeal. The Russian victory, the details of which
were explained to us that day by its creator, was gained on a date
preceding by some weeks the Allies' naval attempt to conquer the
Straits single-handed.

After a belated luncheon at the staff mess, following on this long
programme, we had to hurry off accompanied by Savitzky and his staff
to our railway-car. All the officers and a goodly number of the rank
and file in Sarikamish seemed to have collected at the station to give
us a rousing send-off, making it evident that our visit had been much
appreciated. This was not unnatural. Here were Allies fighting in a
region far removed from the principal theatres of war in which the
armies of the Entente were engaged, and they were with justice
desirous that their efforts should not remain wholly unknown. Like
Off, Sarikamish conveyed a very favourable impression of the working
of the Transcaucasian legions under the supreme leadership of the
Grand Duke Nicholas, of whom officers all spoke with enthusiasm, and
whose personality undoubtedly counted for much amongst the
impressionable moujik soldiery. What one had seen in these forward
situations inspired confidence in the future. Nor was that confidence
misplaced, for the Russian forces in Armenia were to achieve great
triumphs ere 1916 was out.

We had hoped to cross the Caucasus from Tiflis to Vladikavkas by the
great military road over the Dariel Pass, but the staff would not hear
of it, as there was still some risk from avalanches and as the route
was not properly open. We had a farewell luncheon at the palace, and I
had a long talk on military questions with the Grand Duke beforehand,
at which he entrusted me with special messages to Lord Kitchener and
Sir W. Robertson, and expressed an earnest desire for close
co-ordination between his forces in Persia and ours in Mesopotamia.
News had arrived of the repulse of the Kut Relief Force at Sannaiyat
after its having made a promising beginning at Hannah, so that there
was no disguising the fact that little hope remained of saving
Townshend's force. I did not know what course might be adopted by our
Government in this discouraging theatre of war, assuming that Kut
fell; but there could be no doubt that co-ordination was desirable, as
we were bound to hold on to the Shatt-el-Arab and the oil-fields,
whatever happened; it was therefore quite safe to promise that we
would do our best. Having made our farewells, our little party
proceeded straight from Tiflis to Moscow.

In that famous city we were put up in the palace within the Kremlin,
and we passed a couple of days mainly devoted to sight-seeing. What
has become of all the marvels gathered together within the grim
fortress walls in the heart of the ancient Russian capital? Of the
jewelled ikons, of the priceless sacerdotal vestments, of the gorgeous
semi-barbaric Byzantine temples, of the galleries of historic
paintings, of the raiment, the boots and the camp-bed of Peter the
Great? One wearied of wandering from basilica to basilica, from
edifice to edifice and from room to room. Only the globe-trotting
American keeping a diary can suffer an intensity of this sort of
thing. But then we were taken out one of the afternoons by car to the
Sparrow Hills ridge above the Moskva, about three miles outside the
city and not far from where one morning in 1812 the Grand Army topped
a rise and of a sudden beheld the goal which it had travelled so far
to seek. From there we viewed the spectacle of a riot of gilded
cupolas gleaming in the sun, a sight incomparably more striking in its
majesty than that of the interiors and memorials of the past we had
been reconnoitring at close quarters.

Another afternoon we drove out to a palace in the outskirts, which
had been converted into a military hospital and was being maintained
by the Emperor out of his private purse. There are some writers of war
experiences on the Western Front who have revelled in pouring ridicule
upon the inspections that are ever proceeding at our hospitals in the
field, although these functions furnish the humorist with just that
opportunity which his soul craves for. My experience, however, is that
in the military world doctors and nurses simply love to have their
tilt-yard visited by people who have no business there. You could not
meet with a Russian hospital-train on its journey, drawn up at some
railway station, but you were gently, if firmly, coerced into
traversing its corridors from end to end. When following the course of
the Turko-Greek conflict in 1897 on the side of the Hellenes, where
almost every known European nation had its Red Cross hospital, I was
dragged round these establishments one and all. To have strangers
tramping about staring at them must be an intolerable nuisance to
wounded men who are badly in need of peace and quiet. One went through
the "starova bradzye" game in each hospital ward visited in Russia,
and the din of the "wow wow wow-wow wow-ings" reverberating through
these halls seemed strangely out of place amidst surroundings of gloom
and suffering, where many a poor fellow was nearing his end. Our
acting Consul-General came to pay me a visit at the palace, and we had
a long talk about the internal conditions of Russia, of which he took
none too rosy a view; distrust and discontent were growing apace, he
implied, for the Court was entirely out of touch with the people, and
the Government seemed to be going the way of the Court. On the night
that we were leaving we were taken to the ballet at the Opera House,
and we went straight from the theatre to board the train, which left
about midnight for Petrograd.

There we found Hanbury-Williams putting up at the Astoria, and I was
able to have several conversations with him and also with Sir G.
Buchanan and Colonel Blair, our Assistant Military Attaché. From what
I gathered from them and observations during the trip, it would be
safe to report to the War Office that from the military point of view
the outlook in Russia was distinctly promising. Even if there was
little prospect of anything of real importance being effected on the
Eastern Front this year, we might reasonably reckon upon the immense
forces of the empire, adequately fitted out with rifles, machine-guns,
field-artillery and ammunition, and with some heavy guns and howitzers
to help, performing a dominant rôle in the campaign of 1917. And yet
all was not well. The political conditions, if not exactly ominous,
gave grounds for anxiety. The dim shadow of coming events was already
being cast before. The internal situation required watching, and it
was on the cards that the influence of the Allies might have to be
thrown into the scale in order to prevent a dire upheaval.

While at the capital on this occasion we paid a visit to the British
hospital, occupying a palace on the Nevski Prospekt, which was under
the management of Lady Sybil Grey. The most interesting patient in
this admirably appointed institution was a sturdy little lad of about
fourteen, who had been to the front, had got hit with a bullet, and
had been converted into a sergeant. He was evidently made much of,
accompanying us round as a sort of assistant Master of the Ceremonies,
and he seemed to be having a good time; but he complained, so we were
given to understand, that the nurses would insist on kissing him. If
that was the only inconvenience resulting from a wound, it seemed to
me to be a form of unpleasantness that one might manage to put up
with.

When the time for departure came, Meyendorff was quite unhappy at my
objecting to his accompanying us all the way to Tornea; but we meant
to travel through Finland disguised as small fry and in plain clothes.
On the occasion of our previous heading for home, our leaving had been
advertised in all the newspapers; the Embassy had drawn the attention
of the authorities to this, and the Press had been directed to make
no mention in future of foreign officers starting for Scandinavia.
Even if the enemy under-water flotilla was hardly likely to make
special endeavours to catch us on the Bergen-Newcastle trip, there was
no object in running unnecessary risks by letting them know that we
were coming along.

We enjoyed a rare stroke of luck on the voyage across the North Sea
this time. Our packet was plodding peacefully along on a hazy, grey
forenoon, about half-way to the Tyne, when the faint silhouettes of a
brace of destroyers were descried racing athwart our course a good
many miles ahead. We were watching them disappear far away on the
starboard bow, when others suddenly hove in sight looming up through
the mist, all of them going like mad in the same direction, and then
four great shadowy battle-cruisers showed themselves steaming hard
across our front, four or five miles away. The armada, a signal
manifestation of vitality and power and speed, was evidently making
for Rosyth; it had no doubt been on the prowl about the Skagerrack,
and it presumably meant to coal at high pressure and then to get busy
again. Such a spectacle would naturally be an everyday occurrence to
the Sister Service; but to a landsman this assemblage of fighting
craft going for all they were worth was tremendously impressive as a
demonstration of British maritime might--far more impressive than
interminable rows of warships, moored and at rest, such as one had
seen gathered together between Southampton Water and Spithead for a
Royal Review.

What surprised one most perhaps was the wide extent of the water-area
which this battle-cruiser squadron covered, consisting as it did of
only a quartette of capital ships after all, with their attendant ring
of mosquito-craft keeping guard ahead, astern and on the flanks. The
leading pair of destroyers cannot have been much short of twenty miles
in advance of the two scouts which came racing up at the tail of the
hunt. Our old tub had got well within the water-area by the time that
these latter sleuths approached, and their track passed astern of us;
but at the last moment one of them pivoted round, just as a Canadian
canoe will pivot round in the hands of an artist, and came tearing
along after us--it may have been to look at us or it may merely have
been to show off--passed us on the port hand not more than a cable's
length off as if we were standing still, shot across our bows, and was
off like a flash after her consort. Of those battle-cruisers that
looked so imposing as they rushed along towards the Firth of Forth
that forenoon, at least one was to meet her fate before many days had
passed. The Battle of Jutland was fought about three weeks later.



CHAPTER XV

THE RUSSIAN BUNGLE

     The Russian Revolution the worst disaster which befell the
     Entente during the Great War -- The political situation in Russia
     before that event much less difficult to deal with than had been
     the political situation in the Near East in 1915 -- The Allies'
     over-estimate of Russian strength in the early months of the war
     -- We hear first about the ammunition shortage from Japan --
     Presumable cause of the breakdown -- The Grand Duke Nicholas's
     difficulties in the early months -- Great improvement effected in
     respect to munitions subsequent to the summer of 1915 -- Figures
     -- Satisfactory outlook for the campaign of 1917 -- Political
     situation goes from bad to worse -- Russian Mission to London; no
     steps taken by our Government -- Our representatives in Russia --
     Situation at the end of 1916 -- A private letter to Mr. Lloyd
     George -- The Milner Mission to Russia -- Its failure to
     interpret the portents -- Had Lord Kitchener got out it might
     have made all the difference -- Some excuse for our blundering
     subsequent to the Revolution -- The delay in respect to action in
     Siberia and at Vladivostok.


Incomparably the most grievous disaster met with by the Entente during
the progress of the Great War was the Russian Revolution of March
1917. All the other mishaps, great and small, which the Allies had to
deplore--the occupation of Belgium and of wide areas of France by
German hosts at the very outset, the collapse of the Emperor
Nicholas's legions in Poland in 1915, the Dardanelles failure,
Bulgaria's accession to the ranks of our enemies and the resultant
overthrow of Serbia, the fall of Kut, Roumania's unhappy
experience--sink into insignificance compared with the downfall of the
Romanoffs and what that downfall led to.

Had the cataclysmic upheaval in Russia been averted, or at least been
delayed until hostilities were at an end, the war would have been
brought to a successful conclusion before the close of the year 1917.
Much loss of life would have been saved. The European belligerents,
one and all and whichever side they fought on during the contest,
would be in an incomparably less anxious economic position than they
actually are in to-day. The Eastern Hemisphere would have settled its
own affairs without intervention, other than naval and financial, from
the farther side of the Atlantic. Peace would in consequence have been
concluded within a very few months of the cessation of hostilities,
instead of negotiations starting on a preposterous basis and being
protracted for more than a year.

That the Revolution could have been prevented, or at all events could
have been deferred until subsequent to the end of the war, I firmly
believe. Our diplomacy has been severely criticized in connection with
Near Eastern affairs in 1915; nor will any one maintain that it was
successful, judged by results. But the situation in the Balkans was
one of extraordinary perplexity in any case, and the problem was
complicated by the fact that the Allies were not all of one mind as to
what course to pursue on almost any single occasion. The position of
affairs during the critical months leading up to March 1917 in Russia,
on the other hand, was no puzzle, and the political situation had
never been a puzzle since the outbreak of war. Our French and Italian
friends, moreover, fully realized that this country, if it chose to do
so, possessed the means of exerting a special and controlling
influence within the governing clique holding sway at the head of the
empire, and they were most anxious that that influence should be
exercised. But before touching on this question some comments on the
military conditions within the territories of our whilom eastern Ally
previous to, and at the time of, the catastrophe will not be out of
place.

The potentialities of Russia for carrying on a war of first-class
magnitude had been altogether overestimated at the outset in the
United Kingdom and in France, alike by the public and by the military
authorities--in France perhaps even more so than in this country. The
armies of our eastern Ally did, it is true, accomplish greater things
in some respects than had been anticipated, because they struck an
effective blow at an earlier date than had been believed possible, and
they thereby relieved pressure in the West at a critical juncture even
if their enterprising and loyal action in East Prussia was later to
lead them into a terrible disaster. During the first two or three
months after the outbreak of hostilities their weakness in regard to
equipment and to munitions was not, however, known, or at all events
was only partially known. There was much talk in the Press about the
"steam-roller" which was going to flatten the Central Powers out. We
at the War Office had received warnings from our very well-informed
Military Attaché, it is true; but those warnings did not convey to us
the full gravity of the position, a gravity which was probably not
recognized even in high places in Russia for some time. Moreover, as
far as we could judge, Paris had no idea that anything was seriously
amiss beyond the Vistula, in spite of the Franco-Russian alliance
having been in force for some years.

The first really alarming tidings on this subject that we received
came to hand, oddly enough, from Japan; and it bears testimony to the
efficiency of our Far Eastern Ally's intelligence service that the
Island Empire should have been so intimately acquainted with the
military conditions in a State with which it had been at war only a
very few years before. This information reached us, I think, in
October 1914. But as far as I recollect, that warning, inexorable as
it was, only touched the question of ammunition. We were told plainly
that the Russians were likely to run out of this indispensable at an
early date; but the message did not mention rifles, although these
already began to run short within eight months of the commencement of
the struggle. How it came about [p.283] that there should have been so
deplorable a breakdown in respect to war material can only be a matter
of conjecture; but we may hazard a pretty shrewd guess that the
collapse which was to lead to such deplorable results in the early
summer of 1915, was attributable to graft on a Homeric scale. For the
Russian army budgets had for several years before the war been framed
on lavish lines; that for 1914, for instance, mounted up to
725,000,000 roubles, which represented a higher figure than the
corresponding budgets in either Germany or France. General
Sukhomlinoff, the War Minister on the Neva from 1910 to 1915, was, as
is well known, disgraced in the latter year, and he was tried for his
life after the Revolution.

The Russian victories in Galicia during the winter of 1914-15,
followed as they were by the reduction of the important place of arms,
Przemysl, caused unbounded satisfaction in this country. But those
behind the scenes feared, with only too good reason, that such
triumphs represented no more than a flash in the pan, and that, should
the Germans decide to throw heavy forces into the scale, the Grand
Duke Nicholas would speedily find himself obliged to abandon the
conquests which looked so gratifying on paper. We in the War Office
learnt, indeed, that the Russian generalissimo, who recognized that
the munitions situation did not justify offensive operations on an
ambitious scale, had been indisposed to undertake the capture of
Przemysl, but that political pressure had been brought to bear on him.

Lord Kitchener was constantly watching the Eastern Front with anxiety
during the early months of 1915, fearing that in view of the Russian
weakness some great transfer of enemy forces from East to West might
be instituted. A strategical combination on such lines on the part of
the German Great General Staff would under the existing circumstances
have been a very natural one to adopt. But it is conceivable (if not
very probable) that the higher military authorities in Berlin were
not fully aware of the condition of their antagonists in Poland. The
fact, moreover, remains that in their accounts of the campaign of 1915
the numerous books on the war which have appeared in Germany ignore to
a remarkable extent the munitions difficulties under which the Grand
Duke Nicholas was suffering. That, however, may be attributable to a
disinclination to admit that Hindenburg's successes were due, not to
any outstanding brilliance in the handling of his troops nor to the
gallantry and efficiency of those concerned in the operations under
his orders, but simply to his opponent being almost bereft of
armament. Be that as it may, Russia was in such evil plight for arms
and ammunition from the summer of 1915 on to that of 1916 that she was
wellnigh powerless, except in Armenia. She only became really
formidable again during the period of quiescence that, as usual, set
in during the winter of 1916-17.

Shortly after returning home in May 1916, I took over charge (under
circumstances to be mentioned in the next chapter) of the War Office
branch which dealt with munitions and supplies for Russia, and I am
consequently familiar with this question. To show what strides were
made towards fitting the military forces out for a strenuous campaign
in 1917, some output figures may be given. (I have none for dates
prior to January 1916.) It should be mentioned that the output of
field-artillery ammunition had already, owing to General Polivanoff's
exertions, been greatly expanded during the latter part of 1915, and
there was no very marked increase in this during 1916; the French
supplied large numbers of rounds, and it had been hoped that great
quantities would come to hand from the United States, but the influx
from this latter source hardly materialized before the winter of
1916-17. Seeing how greatly the Russian armies had suffered from lack
of heavy artillery during the first year of the war, the huge increase
in output of howitzer and 6-inch rounds is particularly worth noting.

                               January 1916.         January 1917.

  Rifles....                    93,000               129,000
  Machine-guns                     712                 1,200
  Small-arms ammunition     96,000,000 rounds    173,000,000 rounds
  Field-guns                       169                   407
  Field-howitzers                   33                    62
  Field-howitzer ammunition     72,000 rounds        369,000 rounds
  6-inch guns and howitzers          1                    17
  6-inch gun and howitzer
  ammunition                    32,000 rounds        230,000 rounds

By the early weeks of 1917 the empire was not dependent upon its own
resources alone. Great contracts for rifles, machine-guns, small-arms
ammunition, and field-gun ammunition had been placed in the United
States under arrangements made by Lord Kitchener in the summer of
1915. The factories on the farther side of the Atlantic only began to
produce during the summer of 1916, and they had not got into full
swing before the latter part of the year; but by March 1917, 412,000
rifles, 12,200 machine-guns, 240,000,000 rounds of small-arms
ammunition, and 4,750,000 rounds of field-gun ammunition had already
been handed over, and great part of this armament had been shipped
(the field-gun ammunition mainly to Vladivostok across the Pacific);
and a great output was still in progress. Over 800 howitzers and heavy
guns, with abundant ammunition for them, had also by that time been
despatched to Russia from the United Kingdom and France, and nearly
6,000,000 rounds of field-gun ammunition from France. Such statistics
could be multiplied. Suffice it to say that there was every reason to
assume that the Emperor Nicholas's legions would be adequately
supplied with most forms of munitions for the 1917 campaign, and that,
thanks to the great increase in the numbers of rifles, machine-guns
and pieces of artillery available, they would take the field in far
stronger force numerically than at any previous period of the war.

From the purely military point of view the position of affairs in the
winter of 1916-17 was, in fact, decidedly promising. A huge force was
under arms and was coming to be well equipped. General Brusiloff's
successes in the summer of 1916, even if they made no appreciable
alteration in the general strategical situation, had afforded most
satisfactory evidence that the stubborn fighting spirit of the Russian
troops had suffered no eclipse consequent upon disasters of the past.
Confidence reigned at the Stavka, and competent leaders had been
forced to the front. But the internal situation, on the other hand,
had become ominous in the extreme.

Some references were made in the last chapter to the discontent that
was manifesting itself throughout the country even early in 1916, and
to the attitude of marked indifference that was being displayed by the
officers in respect to the Sovereign to whom they owed allegiance. But
things had gone rapidly from bad to worse since that date. M.
Sazonoff, the eminent Foreign Minister, to whose efforts before the
war the satisfactory understanding between Great Britain and Russia
was largely due and whose policy was uncompromisingly anti-German, had
been got out of the way by the machinations of the Court clique. (The
Emperor, it may be mentioned, had been almost cringingly apologetic to
our representatives about this step, which he could not but realize
would create a very bad impression in London and Paris.) Successive
substitutions carried out amongst the personnel of the Executive had
all tended towards introducing elements that were reactionary from the
point of view of internal policy and were suspect from the point of
view of the Entente. Dissatisfaction and loss of confidence had been
growing apace amongst the public, and what had been merely
indifference manifested amongst the officers towards the Autocrat at
the head of the State was giving place to openly expressed dislike and
even to contempt for a potentate who, however well-meaning he might
be, was constantly affording evidence that he was in the [p.287] hands of
mischievous counsellors and possessed no will of his own.

A special Mission had come over to England from Russia in August,
including amongst its numerous personnel the Finance Minister and the
Chief of the General Staff at the Ministry of War. This Mission had
obtained from us promises of financial assistance running into scores
of millions sterling, to say nothing of an undertaking to furnish
substantial consignments of war material. But in the understanding
that was then arrived at, I never could detect any trace of conditions
designed to check the dangerous policy which all who were behind the
scenes realized the Emperor to be adopting. Who paid the piper never
called one note of the tune. There was an ingenuousness about the
proceedings on the part of our Government that was startling in its
Micawberism and improvidence.

Now, our Cabinet was extraordinarily fortunate in the British
representatives within the Russian Empire upon whom they depended or
ought to have depended. They were admirably served on the Neva, at the
Stavka and in the field. We had an ambassador who was trusted to an
unprecedented extent by all ranks and classes in the realm which he
was making his temporary home. The Head of our Military Mission,
Hanbury-Williams, was a _persona gratissima_ with the Emperor. Our
Military Attachés--Knox, Blair, and Marsh--were masters of the Russian
language, and, in common with several British officers especially
accredited to the different armies, ever had their fingers on the
pulse of military sentiment on the fighting fronts. How it came about
that our Government--or rather Governments, because Mr. Lloyd George
and his War Cabinet replaced Mr. Asquith and his sanhedrin of
twenty-three just when things were becoming highly critical--shambled
blindly along trusting to luck and did nothing, it is hard to say. But
among them they nearly lost us the war.

Towards the end of the year 1916 the situation was already becoming
almost desperate, even if the putting away of the horrible Rasputin
did seem for a moment to relieve the gloom. Officers high up in the
army were imploring our military representatives for British
intervention with their rulers. Our ambassador appears to have done
everything that man could do, even remonstrating in set terms with the
Emperor; but he would not seem to have been accorded the strenuous
support from home which he had a right to look for, and which would
have given his representations that compelling weight demanded by an
exceedingly precarious situation.

Owing to the nature of my duties in connection with supplies of all
kinds for Russia, following upon visits to that country, I had been
closely in touch with the situation for some months, heard from our
military representatives from time to time, and saw Russians in an
official position in London practically daily. By the end of the year
the position seemed to me so fraught with peril that, on learning of
the contemplated despatch of a special political and military Mission
to Murmansk _en route_ for the interior, I wrote a private letter to
Mr. Lloyd George, and this was duly acknowledged with thanks by his
Private Secretary. This communication warned the Prime Minister that
Russia was on the brink of revolution owing to the reactionary
tendencies of her government; it pointed out that if a revolution were
to break out the consequences must be disastrous to the campaign of
1917 on the Eastern Front, as all arrangements would inevitably be
thrown out of gear; and it proposed that we should play our trump
card, that, backed by the express authority and enforced by the active
intervention of the War Cabinet, we should turn to its fullest account
the influence of our Royal House with the Emperor Nicholas. The remedy
might not have produced the desired effect. The diagnosis at all
events turned out to be correct.

One never anticipated, needless to say, that if the revolution which
seemed to be imminent were actually to take place, the consequences
would be quite so terrible as those which have actually supervened.
One never dreamt of the executive power over great part of the vast
dominions then under the sway of the Romanoff dynasty falling into the
hands of wretches such as Peter the Painter, Trotzky and Lenin. But,
even assuming a more or less stable form of reasonable republican
government to replace the existing autocracy, it could not be other
than obvious to all who were in any way conversant with the social
conditions holding good in this enormous area, peopled as it was by
illiterate and profoundly ignorant peasants, that a revolution was
bound to produce a state of affairs for the time being bordering on
chaos. What ought to prove the decisive year of the war was at hand.
Revolution must be staved off at all costs.

The special Mission actually started for Murmansk some two or three
weeks later. Although the list of its personnel made a good enough
show on paper, it lacked the one element that was practically
indispensable if its representations were to save the situation. They
say that Lord Milner, on getting back, gave the War Cabinet to
understand that all was going on fairly well in Russia, and that there
was little or no fear of a _bouleversement_. This would have seemed to
me incredible had I not met several of the members of the Mission when
they turned up again, and had they not, one and all, appeared
perfectly satisfied with the internal situation of the empire on which
they had paid a call. Whom these good people saw out there, where they
went, what steps they took to acquire knowledge in quarters other than
official circles, how it came about that they returned to this country
with no more idea of the state of affairs than a cassowary on the
plains of Timbuctoo, furnishes one of those mysteries which cast such
a recondite glamour over our public life. Why, the Babes in the Wood
were prodigies of analysis and wizards of cunning compared with this
carefully selected civilian and military party, which, it has to be
acknowledged, spent a by no means idle time while sojourning in the
territories of our eastern Ally. For among them they promised away
any amount more munitions and war material of all kinds. They went
into the details of the contemplated deal with meticulous care and
consummate administrative skill. They elaborated a programme which
would undoubtedly have proved in the highest degree advantageous to
Russia, had the conditions not undergone a complete metamorphosis
owing to the outbreak of the Revolution in Petrograd a very few days
after they landed, sanguine and reassuring, in this country on their
return journey.

Had it not been for the _Hampshire_ disaster, had Lord Kitchener
succeeded in carrying out his mission in the summer of 1916, it is
conceivable that, in virtue of that almost uncanny intuition that he
possessed, he would have pieced together the realities of the
situation, and would have managed to teach his colleagues in our
Cabinet to understand them on his return. His personal influence might
have made all the difference in the world in Russia. He would have
gained touch with all sorts and conditions of men while out there, and
would have got to the back of their minds by methods all his own. The
very fact that Russians have so much of the oriental strain in them
would have helped him in this. But it was not to be.

Of what followed after the Revolution much might be said; but, in so
far as the blunders committed by our Government are concerned, it has
to be admitted that the situation was no easy one to grapple with.
When you have been such an ass as to ride your horse into a bog, there
is a good deal of excuse for your botching getting the beast out
again, as that is in the nature of things a difficult job. The
mischief was done when the Revolution was allowed to occur. After that
it became a case of groping with a bewildering, kaleidoscopic,
intangible state of affairs. Mr. Henderson's performances have excited
much ridicule, but against his absurd belief in M. Kerensky must be
set his prompt recognition of his own unfitness for the position of
representative of the British Government on the banks of the Neva. M.
Kerensky, no doubt, may have meant well by the Allies after his own
fashion; but as he can claim so great a share in the work of
destroying the discipline of the Russian army, he proved the kind of
friend who in practice is more pernicious than are open and
undisguised enemies. One of the most singular features, indeed, in the
epoch-making events of 1917 in Eastern Europe was the fact that a
windbag of this sort should ever have gained power, and that, having
gained power, he should have retained it for the space of several
months. Only in Russia could such a thing have happened. It must be
added that the perplexities to which the Entente Governments were a
prey in connection with the Russian problem subsequent to March 1917
were aggravated from the outset--and yet more so after Lenin's gaining
the mastery--by the very divergent views which prevailed amongst them
in connection with most of the awkward questions that arose.

This was illustrated by the strange happenings concerning Siberia and
Vladivostok of the early part of 1918. Gathered together at the
extreme eastern doorway into Russia were enormous accumulations of war
material and of vital commodities of all kinds--most of them, it may
be observed incidentally, being goods which had been procured in the
United States by British credits on behalf of pre-Bolshevist
governments, Imperial and republican. It was imperative that these
should not fall into the hands of Lenin's warrior rabble that was
spreading eastwards from beyond the Ural Mountains, and it was equally
imperative that the progress of these tumultuary Bolshevist levies
into Siberia should be stayed at the earliest possible moment. These
were duties which, owing to the geographical conditions, naturally
devolved upon the United States and Japan, and, seeing that the United
States were hurrying soldiers in hot haste to the European theatre of
war, the duties in reality properly devolved upon Japan. But it was
now no longer a question of reconciling the views merely of London,
Paris, Rome, and Tokio. A disturbing factor had cropped up. President
Wilson had entered the lists.

The fact that no decision as to Siberia and Vladivostok was arrived at
for weeks, and that when it was arrived at it was an unsatisfactory
one, was not the fault of the British, nor of the French, nor of the
Italian, nor yet of the Japanese Government. We have heard a good deal
at times about "wait and see"; but Mr. Asquith is a very Rupert
compared to the Autocrat reigning in the White House in 1918. Had
Japan been given a free hand, with the full moral support of the
Allies, and with some financial support and support in the shape of
certain forms of war material, Bolshevism might have been stamped out
even before the Central Powers were brought to their knees in 1918. It
would surely be to the interest of the United States, as it would
undoubtedly be to the interest of Canada and Australasia, that the
swelling millions peopling eastern Asia should be encouraged to expand
westwards into the rich but sparsely populated regions lying north of
Mongolia, rather than that they should be seeking to expand across the
Pacific Ocean. As it was, Japan received scanty encouragement, and
only received it after procrastination had been developed to the very
utmost.

What occurred in connection with Siberia and Vladivostok on that
occasion provided an unpleasant foretaste of the pathetic performance
which was to go on for months and months in the following year at
Versailles. It moreover foreshadowed and furthered that untoward
extension of Bolshevism far and wide which has since taken place. Some
of us would willingly have made shift to get on without a League of
Nations could we have been saved from the disastrous consequence of
action on the part of civilization in Siberia in 1918 having been so
unjustifiably delayed, and its having taken so perfunctory a form.



CHAPTER XVI

CATERING FOR THE ALLIES

     The appointment of Colonel Ellershaw to look after Russian
     munition supplies -- His remarkable success -- I take over his
     branch after his death -- Gradual alteration of its functions --
     The Commission Internationale de Ravitaillement -- Its efficiency
     -- The despatch of goods to Russia -- Russian technical abilities
     in advance of their organizing power -- The flame projector and
     the Stokes mortar -- Drawings and specifications of Tanks -- An
     early contretemps in dealing with a Russian military delegate --
     Misadventure in connection with a 9.2-inch howitzer --
     Difficulties at the northern Russian ports -- The American
     contracts -- The Russian Revolution -- This transforms the whole
     position as to supplies -- Roumania -- Statesmen in conflict --
     Dealings with the Allies' delegates in general -- Occasional
     difficulties -- Helpfulness of the United States representatives
     -- The Greek muddle -- Getting it disentangled -- Great delays in
     this country and in France in fitting out the Greeks, and their
     consequences -- Serbian supplies -- The command in Macedonia
     ought on administrative grounds to have been in British hands.


One day early in the summer of 1915 Lord Kitchener sent for me to say
that I must find him an artillery officer to take general charge of
the arrangements that he was setting on foot for supplying the
Russians with armament from the United States and elsewhere. I
repaired to Colonel Malcolm Peake, who dealt with all questions of
artillery personnel (he was killed on the Western Front very shortly
after taking up an artillery command there), who asked what
qualifications were needed. It was intimated that the officer must be
something of an Admirable Crichton, must be a thoroughly up-to-date
gunner of sufficient standing to be able to keep his end up when
dealing with superior Russian officials, must be possessed of business
capacity, must be gifted with tact and be a reservoir of energy, and
ought to have a good working knowledge of French.

Peake asked for time, and next day proposed Colonel W. Ellershaw for
the appointment. Ellershaw had just been ordered home from France to
assume charge of an important artillery school on Salisbury Plain, and
he was duly instructed to come and report himself to me. He was by no
means enthusiastic on his being informed of the proposal to divert him
from the work that he had arrived to take over and which particularly
appealed to him, and he displayed a diffidence for which, it speedily
became apparent, there were no grounds whatever, for he proved himself
to be absolutely made for the Russian job. As a result of his
practical knowledge, of his genius for administration, of his driving
power and of his personal charm, he gained the complete confidence of
Lord Kitchener and of all Russians who were brought into contact with
him. I kept him in a manner under my wing till the end of the year,
although his work was not, properly speaking, General Staff work; but
his little branch was transferred to General von Donop's department
when Sir W. Robertson arrived and reorganised the General Staff
arrangements at the War Office.

Ellershaw formed one of the party which accompanied Lord Kitchener on
the ill-fated expedition that terminated off the Orkneys, and he was
drowned with his Chief. His death, like that of Colonel Fitzgerald and
Mr. O'Beirne, was a real loss to his country, and it was greatly
deplored by the many highly placed Russians who had had dealings with
him and who had been enormously impressed by his work on their behalf.
For some weeks after the _Hampshire_ catastrophe his place was not
filled up; but General von Donop eventually asked me to take charge of
his branch, which I agreed to by no means willingly, the work being
entirely out of my line and my technical knowledge being virtually
non-existent. Ellershaw, however, had everything in such good order
and had got together such efficient assistants that the duty of
superintendence did not, as it turned out, prove so difficult as had
seemed likely. General Furse, on succeeding General von Donop some
months later, objected to having under him a branch which was not a
supply branch, but a liaison branch between the Russians on the one
hand and his department and the Munitions Ministry on the other hand,
so it was then settled that we should come directly under the
Under-Secretary of State--a very appropriate arrangement.

As all armament for Roumania had to pass through Russia, it became
convenient that my branch should look after this as well, and we
gradually came to be co-ordinating the supply of armament to all the
Allies. Then, early in 1918, as a consequence mainly of the muddle
that the War Office had got into over the question of supplies for
Greece (of which armament only formed a small proportion), it was
decided, somewhat late in the day, that we should deal with supplies
of all kinds furnished by the War Office to the Allies. But it was
arranged at the same time that my branch, instead of remaining under
the Under-Secretary of State, its proper place, should be included in
the new-fangled civilian department of the Surveyor-General of
Supplies which had nothing to do with armament, a plan that set
fundamental principles of administration at defiance inasmuch as the
branch actually supplied nothing and merely acted as a go-between. It
simultaneously acquired a title that constituted a very miracle of
obscurantism and incongruity, warranted to bewilder everybody. Labours
in connection with Russia and Roumania were by that time, however,
virtually at an end, the importance of the branch had to a great
extent lapsed, and it was afforded a not unedifying experience. For it
became possible to compare the working of the military departments
within the War Office with that of a department set up within that
institution and run on the lines of the Man of Business, just as it
had been possible before to compare the working of those military
departments within the War Office with that of the Ministry of
Munitions. If the military departments of the War Office came out with
flying colours, it must in fairness be allowed that, as they were of
the old-established and not the mushroom type, their competitors were
giving away a lot of weight.

As a matter of fact, the branch had never in principle been supposed
to deal direct with the representatives of the Allies, although in
practice we were in close and constant touch with them. Official
business transactions with them were carried out, accounts kept, and
so forth, by the "Commission Internationale de Ravitaillement," and,
until we became entangled with the Surveyor-General of Supplies people
and were obliged to shift quarters, we were accommodated in the
building occupied by the "Commission," which constituted a very
important department, nominally under the Board of Trade but for all
practical purposes independent. This C.I.R.--departments and branches
are always described by their initials in official life; the day would
not be long enough nor would available stationery suffice to give them
their full titles--was an admirably managed institution. It enjoyed
the good fortune of being under charge of an experienced Civil
Servant, Sir E. Wyldbore Smith, who had one or two of the same sort to
help him, although the bulk of the staff were of the provisional type;
and, as the various foreign delegations dealing with supplies were
housed under the same roof, this was manifestly the proper place for
us to be. We were in close touch with the people we actually had to
deal with. The foreign delegates could always look in on us and could
discuss points of detail with us on the spot, thereby avoiding
misunderstandings and friction. Consisting, as they did, for the most
part of officers, they liked to have officers to deal with. A foreign
officer of junior rank will take "no" for an answer from a general and
be perfectly happy, whereas he may jib at receiving the same answer
from a civilian or from an officer of his own standing. Points of that
kind are apt to be overlooked in a non-military country like ours.

My branch had an extremely busy time in connection with the supply of
the munitions which were promised to the Russians on the occasion of
that mission of theirs which was sent to England just at the time that
I took over charge, and which is mentioned on p. 287 in the last
chapter. These munitions included war material of all kinds, but
particularly field-howitzers and heavy artillery. The Russian
delegation were quite ready to leave all the arrangements for getting
the goods to Archangel from wherever they were turned out in this
country, to the C.I.R. and us, working in conjunction with the Naval
Transport Department of the Admiralty at first and afterwards with the
Ministry of Shipping. They recognized their own administrative
shortcomings and wisely left such matters under British control. Some
difficulty did, however, arise in respect to the apportionment of
tonnage space, as between the armament supplied by the War Office and
commodities of other kinds which the delegates procured more or less
direct from the trade through the C.I.R. Some regrettable delay
occurred in the winter of 1916-17 in getting armament shipped which
had been hurried from the factories to Liverpool, owing to its being
shut out by goods of much less importance. It was imperative to get
heavy artillery out as soon as possible in view of the coming
campaign, and it was exasperating to have valuable howitzers idle at
the docks which our own army in France would have welcomed. One had to
take a high hand; but the Russians were easy to manipulate in such
matters, and they never resented virtual dictation in the least so
long as the iron hand remained concealed within the velvet glove.
Relations were, indeed, always particularly pleasant.

Although the average standard of education was probably lower in
Russia than in any other State which could be called civilized, the
country has produced many scientists of the very foremost rank, and
the Russian artillery included many highly scientific--almost too
scientific--officers. It used to be a little trying to find them,
after they had received a consignment of our own pattern armament
(which the French or the Italians or the Belgians would have jumped
at), picking it to pieces, so to speak, criticising the details of
high-explosive shell or of fuses from every point of view, and showing
greater disposition to worry over such points than to get the stuff
into the field and to kill Germans with it. The technicalist, indeed,
almost seemed to rule the roost, although this unfortunately did not
lead to even reasonably good care being taken of war material that
arrived in the country. The Russians had done wonders in respect to
developing the port of Archangel; they had performed the miracle
actually during the war. But if they had achieved a veritable
administrative triumph in this matter, their methods were terribly at
fault in assembling goods as they arrived and in getting the goods
through to their destination in good order. If they undoubtedly were
strong on the scientific side, they were correspondingly weak on the
practical side, as is illustrated by the following experience.

I was taken down one afternoon to Hatfield Park to see a demonstration
of a certain flame-producing arrangement, of which they had ordered
large numbers. This was a pleasant outing, and the demonstration was
interesting enough in itself; but the elaborate contrivance seemed to
me totally unsuited to the conditions on the Russian front, because
the flame was only projected eighty yards--one was quite comfortable a
hundred and fifty yards straight in front of the projector--and the
device was only adapted to conditions such as had existed in the
Gallipoli Peninsula and as held good at a very few points on the
Western Front, where the opposing trenches happened to be quite close
together. As a matter of fact, the contrivance had been found of very
little use when tried by us in the field. Strong recommendations came
to hand shortly afterwards from some of our officers accredited to the
Russian armies that a goodly supply of trench mortars should be sent
out, and particularly of the invaluable Stokes mortars; it was
foreseen by the applicants that, once the pattern was available, these
could easily be constructed locally in Russia. But one encountered the
greatest difficulty in inducing the delegation in this country to have
anything to say to the Stokes mortar, because of its comparatively
short range. And yet the range of the very oldest pattern of Stokes
mortar was five times that of the flame projector, upon which material
and time and labour and tonnage were being wasted.

Then, again, there arose the question of tanks. Now a tank could not
possibly at that time have been got along the Murmansk railway without
squashing the whole track down for good and all into the marshes
across which the permanent way was conveyed by precarious and
provisional processes. Needless to say, we had no tanks to spare to be
kept reposing idle for months at ports and congested junctions,
awaiting transport to Vilna or Podolia. But as they could not get
tanks, nor transport them if they were to secure some in this country,
the Russians were anxious to procure drawings and specifications of
these new-fangled engines of war. There was no reasonable likelihood
of such a contraption ever being turned out in Russia owing to lack of
raw material and to manufacturing difficulties, even supposing
drawings and all the rest of it to be available. There were secrets in
connection with the internals of a tank which must be zealously
guarded. Under the circumstances, I suggested to the General Staff,
when putting forward a request on behalf of the Commission for the
paper stuff, that faked drawings and details should be furnished to
keep the Russians quiet. This was done; but what was furnished would
not have bluffed a novice in a select seminary for young ladies of
weak intellect. So I sent the rubbish off to General Poole (who was
representing this country out there in connection with the munitions
that were arriving), telling him the facts of the case and leaving him
to do as he thought fit. I was thus able to say, when pressed by the
Commission, that this valuable documentary material had already been
sent straight to Poole. No doubt he put it all in the wastepaper-basket.
Sir A. Stern mentions in his book that he deemed it expedient to hand
over a "child's drawing and incorrect details." It is satisfactory to
find that he thought of adopting the exact course which I had proposed
when originally putting forward the request on behalf of the Russians.

That reminds me of a droll incident that occurred in connection with a
Russian delegate quite early in the war. We had no clear understanding
with our Allies at that date with regard to the allocation of material
between us, nor as to the imperative necessity of preventing anything
in the shape of competition in the British markets amongst us
partners. The War Office had a certain article in mind that was being
produced somewhere up north--at Manchester, I think, but anyway we
will call it Manchester. The Russians happened to be after the same
thing, and, without our knowing it, one of their officers who was in
this country was about to enter into negotiations with the people up
north with a view to securing it, and in due course he proceeded to
Manchester with the purchase in view. But he was of an inquisitive
disposition; he managed to get into some place or other to which he
did not possess the entrée. So, being a foreigner, he was promptly run
in, and he spent about twenty-four hours incarcerated in some lock-up
before he could establish his credentials. During that very
twenty-four hours a representative of the War Office appeared in
Manchester and snapped up what the captive was after.

The Russian Military Attaché came to the War Office to enter a strong
protest at the outrage of which his brother officer had been the
victim. He evidently meant to kick up no end of a row, and he had just
got into his stride and was going strong and well, when he suddenly
went off into a tempest of giggles. He saw the humour of the
situation. He was fully persuaded that we had deliberately arrested
his friend so as to get him out of the way while we managed to push
the deal through ourselves, and he evidently gave us gratifying credit
for being so wide-awake. It was not the slightest use our explaining
that this was one of those coincidences in real life which are
stranger than fiction, that we had been wholly unaware that the
Russian officer was even thinking about the article that we had
secured, that we knew nothing whatever about him or his adventures.
The Military Attaché was politeness itself; but he evidently did not
believe a word we said--who, under the circumstances, would? Still, we
had come out top-dog in the business, so we left it at that.

It must not be supposed that things never went wrong in spite of the
elaborate system that we were adopting for transferring war material
to Archangel under our control. Late in the autumn of 1916 I extracted
out of von Donop a 9.2-inch howitzer and mounting all complete--he did
not part readily with his goods--so as to send them on ahead and to
afford the Russians an opportunity of learning the points of this
ordnance, in anticipation of the arrival of a regular consignment of
the weapons which had been promised for a later date. But part of the
concern somehow found its way into one ship and the rest of it into
another ship, and one of the ships managed to get rid of her propeller
in the North Sea, drifted aimlessly for a whole month, was believed to
have foundered, and was eventually discovered and towed ignominiously
back to one of our northern ports. She was lucky not to meet with a
U-boat during her wanderings. The result was that the Russians
received either a howitzer and no mounting or a mounting and no
howitzer, I forget which, and the whole bag of tricks was not
assembled at its destination until after part of the regular
consignment of 9.2-inch howitzers had arrived in Petrograd about
April.

In connection with this business of shipping goods to our eastern
Ally, it should be mentioned that the sealing up of the port of
Archangel and of the White Sea in general from about mid-November
until well on in May--the exact period varied in different seasons,
and depended to some extent upon the direction of the wind--complicated
the problem. Some forty of our ships had been embedded in ice for
months in these waters in the winter of 1915-16, and the Admiralty
were taking no risks this time. It was not a question merely of
getting a vessel to its destination, but also a question of getting
her discharged and out of the trap before it snapped-to. That a
railway had not been constructed to Murmansk years before, illustrates
the torpor and lack of enterprise of the ruling classes in Russia.
Although Archangel is icebound somewhat longer, the Gulfs of Finland
and Bothnia likewise become impassable for navigation during the
winter; so that for some months of the year maritime communication
between northern portions of the empire and the outer world was almost
necessarily to a great extent cut off. And yet all the time there
existed a fine natural harbour of great extent on the Arctic coast
which was never frozen over, simply asking to be made use of. Not
until a state of affairs, which ought to have been foreseen, arose in
actual war--the Baltic and exit from the Black Sea barred by hostile
belligerents--was anything done. A British company was trying hard to
obtain powers to construct a railway to Murmansk at the time of the
outbreak of hostilities; but a line was not completed till more than
two years had elapsed and was then of the most ramshackle character.

It was not only from the United Kingdom and from France that war
material and other goods were being conveyed by sea to Russia, but
also from America; and it was infinitely preferable for these latter
to take the easterly route to the northern ports of the empire, than
for them to take the westerly route across the Pacific to Vladivostok,
involving a subsequent journey of thousands of miles along a railway
that was very deficient in rolling stock. Matters in connection with
Lord Kitchener's contracts in the United States were in the hands of
Messrs. Morgan on the farther side of the Atlantic, with a
Russo-British Commission on the spot watching developments.
Responsibilities in connection with the transactions in this country
had come under charge of the Ministry of Munitions. My branch noted
progress, kept the General Staff informed, and represented the War
Office in connection with the subject when questions arose. Experience
of these huge American contracts fully bore out what had occurred at
home in connection with the expansion of munitions production on the
part of the War Office after the outbreak of war--only in a somewhat
exaggerated form. Whereas in this country output began to intensify
rapidly within twelve months and the credit was appropriated by Mr.
Lloyd George, owing to intensification for which the War Office was
solely responsible taking place after the setting up of the Munitions
Ministry, output only began really to sprout in the United States
about sixteen months after the start. All, however (as already
mentioned in the last chapter), was full of promise when the crash of
the Revolution came to nullify what had been achieved.

Up to the date of that disastrous event, and even for a few weeks
subsequently, one did one's best to accelerate the supply and the
despatch of war material from this country to Archangel and, after the
closing of that great port by ice, Murmansk, which was just beginning
to serve as an avenue into the country owing to the completion--after
a fashion--of its unstable railway. The Milner Mission had been as
profuse in its pledges as it had been erratic in its anticipations,
and had committed itself to somewhat comprehensive engagements in
connection with the furnishing of further war material. So that,
almost synchronizing with the downfall of the Romanoff dynasty and the
setting up of a new regime, this country found itself let in for
diverting munitions of all sorts, in addition to what had already been
promised, to an Ally in whom trust could no longer be placed. On one
occasion in the course of the winter I had defeated the combined
forces of Sir W. Robertson and the Master-General of the Ordnance
before the War Cabinet over the question of deflecting a few howitzers
to Russia. But one's point of view underwent a transformation
subsequent to the dire events of March in Petrograd. So far from
pushing the claims of the revolutionary government for war material,
it then seemed expedient to act as a drag on the wheel, and to take
the side of the C.I.G.S. and General Furse when Lord Milner from time
to time pressed the question of sending out armament. The War Office
deprecated depriving our own troops of munitions for the sake of
trying to bolster up armies that were disintegrating apace owing to
the action of Kerensky and his like. It was very disappointing--apart
from the threatening political situation, prospects had seemed so good
in Russia. But all the endeavours that had been made to assist during
the previous few months were evidently going to be to no purpose. Just
when the despatch of what our Ally required had been got on a
thoroughly sound footing, the organization was to prove of no avail.

Still, there was always Roumania to be thought of, even if the problem
of getting goods through to that country in face of the chaos which
was rapidly making way in Russia was almost becoming insoluble. The
French, like ourselves, were most anxious to afford succour to that
stricken kingdom. Amongst other things, they requested us to send off
to Moldavia a certain consignment (thirty, I think it was) of 6-inch
howitzers, which M. Thomas declared Mr. Lloyd George had promised him
for the French army. But the worst of it was, there was a difference
of opinion in regard to this reputed undertaking. The stories of these
two eminent public servants clashed in a very important particular,
for our man strenuously denied ever having committed himself to the
alleged engagement. On only one point, indeed, were the pair in full
agreement, and this was that the discussion in connection with the
matter had taken place after luncheon.

Bearing in mind Mr. Lloyd George's irrepressible passion for pleasing,
and taking the fact into account that generosity with what belongs to
somebody else is in the United Kingdom recognized as the masterstroke
of Radical statesmanship, there did seem to be just a last possibility
of M. Thomas having right on his side. Still, expansiveness, fantasy
and oblivion serve for epilogue to a grateful midday meal, and, when
all is said and done, possession is nine points of the law--we had the
howitzers, so it was for the other party to get them out of us. But we
should, no doubt, have sent them out to our Roumanian friends in due
course had it not become virtually impracticable to get such goods
through from the North Russian ports by the date that the subject came
up for final decision.

It has to be confessed that all of our Continental Allies were not
quite so well disciplined in the matter of procuring goods in this
country as were the Russians. As time went on and raw material and
manufactured commodities began to run short in the United Kingdom,
_tracasseries_ would from time to time arise in connection with
certain rules which had been laid down in the interests of us all. The
delegations manifested a highly inconvenient bent for purchasing in
the open market, which did not by any means suit our book, as such
procedure tended to run up prices and to disturb equilibrium. The
trade, moreover, was ready enough to meet them, and occasionally to
let them have goods more quickly and even cheaper than they could be
procured through the authorized channels. A firm attitude had to be
taken up in regard to this, even if it led to some misunderstandings.
In the case of one of our pals (who shall be nameless) it was like
fly-fishing for oysters on the Horse Guards Parade to try to extract
receipts for goods received; an embargo had, indeed, to be placed on
further issues until overdue receipts were handed in.

But the United States representatives were always particularly
considerate and helpful. When they came to be dealing with us on at
least as great a scale as any other Ally, their delegates appreciated
the position that this country was in, and they took full cognizance
of the risks that we were incurring of running out of vital
commodities altogether unless disposal of these was kept under rigid
control. They always fell in readily with our requirements,
inconvenient as some of these may have proved. Still, all our friends
were alike in one respect--they were all of them intent upon getting
their full money's worth. As a pillar of literary culture in khaki,
indeed, remarked to me in this connection; "They must, like Fagin in
the 'Merchant of Venice,' have their pound of flesh." Such
difficulties as arose could generally be smoothed over by personal
intercourse, and the head of the Commission Internationale de
Ravitaillement could charm the most unruly member of his flock to eat
out of his hand by dint of tact and kindness.

It was just at the time when I was acting as D.C.I.G.S. in the summer
of 1917 that the French suddenly wired over to the War Office to
request us to send representatives to Paris to discuss with them what
we were prepared to let Greece have, now that the Hellenes had come
down off the fence and were going to afford active assistance to the
Allies in the Balkans, but stood in need of equipment and of supplies
of all kinds. Had I been free at the time, I should have proposed to
go even though our new friends wanted clothing, personal equipment,
transport, animals and food--goods with which my branch had nothing to
do--rather than munitions. As it was, a couple of senior officers went
over who had no proper authority to act, and who hardly knew the
ropes. The Commission Internationale de Ravitaillement was forgotten
altogether, and as for the poor dear old Treasury, not only was that
Department of State treated with scorn, but the Lords Commissioners
were not even informed, when our delegates were retrieved from the Gay
City, that a casual sort of agreement, which _inter alia_ involved
appreciable financial obligations, had been entered into with our
friends on the other side of the Channel. No determinate Convention
of any kind or sort was drawn up or signed, what had been
provisionally promised remained for a long time in a condition of
ambiguity, and the transaction as a whole cannot be claimed as one of
the cardinal achievements of the War Office during the course of the
four years' conflict.

The French undertook to find almost all the requisite armament; that
we did not mean to find any was about the only point that was clearly
laid down during the Paris negotiations, although this was altered
later. My branch was therefore little concerned in the business until,
as has been mentioned on p. 216, the dilemma that various departments
were in over the affair was thrust before the War Cabinet, and steps
were taken to get something done. Even then, it took some weeks before
we arrived at a clear understanding with the French and the Greeks as
to what exactly we were going to provide, and before a proper
Convention was tabled. Much time was therefore wasted, and time must
not be wasted in time of war.

Then, when it had at last been established what goods this country was
to provide, there was fresh and almost unaccountable dilatoriness in
certain quarters in furnishing important commodities, although the
military departments of the War Office grappled with their side of the
problem and overcame serious difficulties with commendable despatch.
General R. Reade had been sent out to Athens to look after things at
that end, and he with his assistants kept us fully informed of
requirements and of progress; but he had to put up with a
procrastination at this end which was unquestionably preventible. One
has to face uphill jobs from time to time in the army; but in
thirty-six years of active service I never wrestled with so uphill a
job as that of trying, in the year of grace 1918, to get our share of
the fitting out of the Hellenic forces fulfilled. The only thing to be
said is that the French, who had easier problems to contend with and
less to do than we had, were almost equally behindhand. But the
result of it all was that, of the 200,000 troops whom, entirely apart
from reserves, the Greek Government were prepared to mass on the
fighting front if only they could be fitted out, barely half were
actually in the field when (fortunately for those who were responsible
for mismanaging the despatch of the requisite supplies from this
country and from France) the Bulgarians realized that the game of the
Central Powers was up, and they virtually threw up the sponge.

In so far as Serbia was concerned, a detailed Convention had been
drawn up with the French in 1916, clearly indicating what the two
respective Governments were to furnish for the service of Prince
Alexander's war-worn troops. Under the terms of this agreement, we
were concerned chiefly with the question of food and forage; but we
also, needless to say, provided the bulk of the shipping on which the
Serbian contingents depended for their existence. They, as it
happened, came to be none too well equipped, and it was a pity perhaps
that we had not undertaken somewhat heavier obligations in connection
with these sorely tried Allies of ours and thereby ensured their being
properly clothed. A fresh Convention was drawn up in London in
September 1918, under which we accepted somewhat increased
responsibilities, and Brigadier-General the Hon. C. G. Fortescue was
sent out to look after matters in Macedonia in the Serbian interest.
The end came, however, before the arrangements made could exercise any
appreciable effect during the actual fighting; but I believe that good
work has been done since that date.

Considering the exceedingly burdensome character of our liabilities in
connection with maintaining the associated forces of the Entente in
Macedonia for the space of three years--for practical purposes we had
to find pretty well all the food, and we had, moreover, to get the
food (and almost everything else) to Salonika in our ships, which paid
heavy toll to enemy submarines during the process--it was a faulty
arrangement that the chief command out there was not reposed in
British hands. To press for it would have been awkward, seeing that
the chief command in the Dardanelles operations that had proved so
abortive had rested with us; and it was, moreover, perfectly well
known in Paris that the military authorities in this country looked
askance at the whole business and that our Government entertained
doubts on the subject. Had the operations been conducted by a British
commander-in-chief they might not have been attended by greater
success than they actually were, but, considering the strength of the
mixed forces which remained locked up so long in this barren field of
endeavour, they could hardly have proved less effective than they
actually were for nearly three years.



CHAPTER XVII

THE PRESS

     The constant newspaper attacks upon the War Office -- Often arise
     from misunderstandings or sheer ignorance -- The mistake made
     with regard to war correspondents at the start -- The pre-war
     intentions of the General Staff -- How they were set on one side
     -- Inconvenience of this from the War Office point of view -- A
     breach of faith -- The mischievous optimism of newspapers in the
     early days -- Tendency of the military authorities to conceal bad
     news -- Experts at fault in the Press -- Tendency to take the
     Press too seriously in this country -- Some of its blunders
     during the war -- A proposal to put German officer prisoners on
     board transports as a protection -- A silly mistake over the
     promotion of general-officers -- Why were tanks not adopted
     before the war! -- A paean about Sukhomlinoff -- A gross
     misstatement -- Temporary officers and high positions in the
     field -- A suggestion that the Press should censor itself in time
     of war -- Its absurdity -- The Press Bureau -- Some of its
     mistakes -- Information allowed to appear which should have been
     censored -- Difficulties of the censors -- The case of the shell
     shortage -- Difficulty of laying down rules for the guidance of
     the censors -- The Press and the air-raids -- A newspaper
     proprietor placed at the head of the Air Service -- The result --
     The question of announcing names of units that have distinguished
     themselves -- Conclusion.


It is inevitable, perhaps, that a rather time-honoured War Office
hand--thirteen years of it, covering different periods between 1887
and 1918--should entertain somewhat mixed feelings with regard to the
Press. As long as I can remember, practically, the War Office has
provided a sort of Aunt Sally for the young men of Fleet Street to
take cock-shies at when they can think of nothing else to edify their
readers with, and uncommonly bad shots a good many of them have made.
Assessment at the hands of the newspaper world confronts every public
department. Nor can this in principle be objected to; healthy,
well-informed criticism is both helpful and stimulating. But although
many of the attacks delivered upon the War Office by the Fourth
Estate, in the course of that perpetual guerilla warfare which is
carried on by journalism in general against the central administration
of the army, have been fully warranted, the fact remains that no small
proportion of them has been based upon misapprehension, and that a
good many of them can be put down to pure ignorance. Never has this
been more apparent than during the progress of the Great War. But a
reason for this suggests itself at once; many newspapers, no doubt,
for the time being lost the services of members of their staff who
possessed some qualification for expatiating upon military questions.

It has to be acknowledged that the Press was badly treated by the War
Office and G.H.Q. at the outset. This circumstance may have
contributed towards setting up relations during the contest between us
in Whitehall and the world of journalism which were not always too
cordial. The question of correspondents in the war zone naturally
cropped up at a very early stage, and the decision arrived at, for
better or for worse, was that none of them were to go. The wisdom of
the attitude taken up by the military authorities in this matter is a
question of opinion; but my view was, and still is, that the
newspapers were treated injudiciously and that the decision was wrong.
I was, indeed, placed in the uncomfortable position of administering a
policy which I disliked, and which I believed to be entirely mistaken.
It, moreover, practically amounted to a breach of faith.

The General Staff had for some years prior to 1914 always intended
that a reasonable number of correspondents should proceed to the front
under official aegis on the outbreak of a European war. A regular
organization for the purpose actually took shape automatically within
the War Office, in concert with the Press, on mobilization. A small
staff, under charge of a staff-officer who had been especially
designated for the job two or three years before, with clerks, cars,
and so on, came into being _pari passu_ with G.H.Q. of the
Expeditionary Force on the historic 5th of August. The officer, Major
A. G. Stuart, a man of attractive personality and forceful character,
master of his profession and an ideal holder of the post, had been in
control of the Press representatives at Army Manoeuvres in 1912 and
1913, and he was therefore personally acquainted with the gentlemen
chosen to take the field. (He was unfortunately killed while serving
on the staff in France, in the winter of 1915-16.) The General Staff
had, moreover, gone out of their way to impress upon correspondents at
manoeuvres that they ought to regard the operations in the light of
instruction for themselves in duties which they would be performing in
the event of actual hostilities. They were given confidential
information with regard to the programme on the understanding that
they would keep it to themselves, and they always played the game.

But when war came, all this went by the board. Leave for
correspondents to go to the front, whether under official auspices or
any other way, was refused, and the staff and the clerks and the cars
abode idle in London under my wing. The Press world accepted this
development philosophically for the opening two or three weeks,
realizing that the moment when the Expeditionary Force was being
spirited over to France was no time for visitors in the war zone. But
after that the Fourth Estate became decidedly restive. Enterprising
reporters proceeded to the theatre of war without permission, while
experienced journalists, deluded by past promises, remained patiently
behind hoping for the best. The old hounds, in fact, were kept in the
kennel, while the young entry ran riot with no hunt servants to rate
them. Some unauthorized representatives of the British Press were, it
is true, arrested by the French, and had the French dealt with them in
vertebrate fashion--decapitated them or sent them to the Devil's
Island--we should have known where we were. But as the culprits were
simply dismissed with a caution the situation became ridiculous,
because no newspaper man bothers about marching to a dungeon with
gyves upon his wrists and tarrying there for some hours without
sustenance. It is part of the game. So the military authorities were
openly flouted.

One result of the abrupt change of policy also was that, instead of
the supervision of messages emanating from the front falling upon
officers at G.H.Q. who were in a position to wrestle with them to good
purpose, this task devolved upon the Press Bureau in London, which
naturally could not perform the office nearly so well and which was,
moreover, smothered under folios of journalistic matter originating in
quarters other than the theatre of war. Furthermore, editors and
managers and proprietors of our more prominent organs considered that
we had broken our engagements--as, indeed, we had. At the very fall of
the flag, the Press of the country was in my opinion gratuitously
fitted out with a legitimate grievance. This could not but react
hurtfully from that time forward upon the relations between the
military authorities and British journalism as a whole.

There was one direction in which the Fourth Estate did serious
mischief in the early days of the war. As being behind the scenes
during those strenuous, apprehensive months, when the process of
transforming the United Kingdom into a great military nation at the
very time when the enemy was in the gate was making none too rapid
progress, I have no hesitation in asserting that one of the principal
obstacles in the way was the excessive optimism of our Press. Every
trifling success won by, or credited to, the Allies was hailed as a
transcendent triumph and was placarded on misleading posters. When
mishaps occurred--as they too often did--their seriousness was
whittled down or ignored. The public took their cue only too readily
from the newspapers, and the consequence was that a check was placed
alike on recruiting and on the production of the war material which
was urgently required for such troops as we could place in the field.

And yet, journalists could plead in excuse that they were in some
measure following a lead set by the authorities. It has already been
admitted in Chapter II. that a system of official secretiveness in
connection with reverses was adopted, and that it did no good. This
took the form of concealing, or at any rate minimizing, sets-back when
these occurred--an entirely new attitude for soldiers in this country
to take up, and one which was to be deprecated. We should never have
gathered together those swarms of volunteers in South Africa in 1900,
volunteers drawn from the United Kingdom and from the Dominions and
from the Colonies, had Stormberg and Magersfontein and Colenso been
artistically camouflaged. The facts were blurted out. The Empire rose
to the occasion. Hiding the truth in 1914-15 was a blunder from every
point of view, because there never was the slightest fear of the
people of this country losing heart. No doubt the incorporation of
ordinances directed against the propagation of alarmist reports
calculated to cause despondency, as part of the Defence of the Realm
Act, was necessary. But one at times positively welcomed the
appearance of well-informed jeremiads in the newspapers, as an
antidote to the exultant cackle which was hindering a genuine,
comprehensive, universal mobilization of our national resources in men
and material.

This excessive optimism which did so much harm was, it should be
observed, to some extent the handiwork of "experts" whose names
carried a certain amount of weight, who turned out several columns of
comment weekly, and whose opinions would have been well enough worth
having had they been better acquainted with the actual facts. For one
thing, they did not realize that the augmentation of our military
forces was hampered by the virtual impossibility of synchronizing
development in output of equipment and munitions with the expansion
of numbers in the ranks. They were, moreover, entirely unaware of the
unfortunate condition of the Russian armies in respect to war
material; they imagined that those hosts were far larger numerically
than the insufficiency of armament permitted, and they consequently
greatly overrated the potentialities of our eastern Ally in the
conflict. To such an extent, indeed, was one of them unintentionally
deceiving his readers as to the position of affairs in that quarter
that I wrote to him privately giving him an inkling of the situation;
he gave that side of Europe a wide berth for a long time afterwards.

The mischief done in this matter rather influenced one against the
Press, and perhaps made one all the more ready to take cognizance of
its blunders and to accept its criticisms (when these were
ill-informed) in bad part. Are we not, however, in any case rather
disposed to take our journals too seriously, and is not one result of
this that we have the Press that we deserve? Public men have to treat
the journalistic world with respect, or it will undo them; but that
does not apply to mere ordinary people. Yet we all bow the knee before
it, submissively accept it at its own valuation, and consequently it
fools us to the top of our bent. We believe what we see stated in our
paper as a matter of course, unless we happen by some accident to know
that the statement is totally contrary to the actual fact. The Fourth
Estate is exalted into an acknowledged autocrat because it is allowed
to have things all its own way; and your autocrat, whether he be a
trade union official or he be a sceptred potentate or he be the
President of a republic saddled with a paradoxical constitution, is an
anachronism in principle and is apt to be a curse in practice.

Autocracy is particularly to be deprecated in the case of the Press,
seeing that here we have what is in reality the most widespread trade
union in the country. Journalism harbours its internal squabbles and
jealousies, no doubt, just as is the case with most great
associations; but, assail it from without, and it closes up its ranks
as a nation rent with faction will on threat from some foreign foe.
It is generally acknowledged that in political life a formidable
opposition in the legislature renders the government of the day all
the more efficient. But the Press, in what may be called its corporate
capacity, is not disciplined nor stimulated by any organized
opposition at all, and the consequence is that it has perhaps got just
a little too big for its boots. Judged by results in respect to its
handling of military questions during the Great War, the Fourth Estate
has not (taken as a whole, and lumping together journals of the meaner
class with the representative organs which have great financial
resources to refresh them) proved itself quite so efficient an
institution as its protagonists claim it to be.

Before the war, one was disposed to accept as gospel the pontifical
utterances of newspapers concerning matters with which one was
unacquainted--the law, say, or economics, or art. But never again!
Journalists on occasion gave themselves away too badly during those
years over warlike operations, army organization, and so forth, for
one to let oneself be bluffed in future. Given the leisure, the
inclination, and the necessary access to a large number of the organs
of the Press, a libraryful of scrap-books could have been got
together, replete with gaffes and absurdities seriously and solemnly
set out in print. One or two examples of such blunders may be given
for purposes of illustration.

After a shameful U-boat outrage committed on a hospital ship, a London
morning paper actually urged, in its first leader, that half a dozen
German officers should be "sent to sea in every hospital ship _and in
every transport_" (the italics are mine). Here was a case of an editor
(surely editors read through the leaders which are supposed to give
the considered opinion of the journal of which they are in charge)
deliberately proposing that this country should play as dirty a trick
as any Boche was ever guilty of. A belligerent has a perfect right to
sink a transport in time of war, just as he has a perfect right to
bomb a train full of enemy troops. The Japanese sank a Chinese
transport at the outbreak of the war of 1894 in the Far East, causing
serious loss of life; the vessel was conveying troops from Wei-hai-wei
to the Korean coast. According to this newspaper, a hostile attack
upon the flotilla of vessels of various sorts and kinds which conveyed
our Expeditionary Force to France would have been as much an act of
treachery and a breach of the customs of war, as would an attack upon
the vessels covered by the Red Cross which brought the wounded back.

An Army Order in April 1918, again, laid down that promotion to the
rank of general would in future be by selection, not by seniority. A
number of newspapers of quite good standing thereupon promptly tumbled
head over heels into a pitfall entirely of their own creation. They
started an attack upon the War Office for not having recognized the
principle of advancement in the higher grades of the army by merit
sooner, having failed to notice that the Army Order concerned the
question of promotion to the rank of full general. Of their own
accord, and quite gratuitously, they exposed their ignorance of the
fact that promotions to the ranks of brigadier-general, major-general
and lieutenant-general had been effected by selection for several
years previously; and they also exposed their ignorance of the fact
that, up till the time of the Great War, there had never been any
special importance attached to the rank of full general. In the South
African War, when we had a far larger military force on active service
than ever previously in our history, only three general officers of
higher rank than lieutenant-general were employed--Lord Roberts, Sir
R. Buller, and Lord Kitchener--and, although all three were in the
field together, Lord Roberts was a field-marshal; when, later, Lord
Kitchener was in supreme command he had no full general under him.

The Great War produced an entirely new condition of things, because we
then came to have operating in the field, not merely one army but
several armies, each consisting of several army corps, and each of
those army corps commanded by a lieutenant-general. It was therefore
convenient that the armies should be commanded by full generals, and
the rank of full general suddenly assumed a real instead of merely a
nominal importance. It thus became necessary to effect promotion to
full general by selection instead of by seniority. Nobody expects
editors to know details of this kind; but it surely is their duty to
investigate before starting on a crusade. In the case of people who
knew the facts, this particular blunder merely made the newspapers
that committed it look ridiculous; but the majority of those who read
the drivel in all probability had no idea of the facts, and were led
to imagine that promotions to the various ranks of general officer had
hitherto all been a matter of seniority. It is an example of the way
in which the public have been misled about the War Office by the Press
for years past.

A year or so after the Armistice, one of the London evening papers,
when criticizing the disinclination of the War Office to adopt new
ideas in respect to devices for use in the field (a fair enough
subject of discussion in itself), gave itself away by complaining that
"tanks were not adopted before the war"! In that case the absurdity
was so obvious that its effect upon most readers of the article
probably was to make them regard the whole of it as rubbish, which was
not correct. One wonders whether the following passage, which appeared
in the very early days of the war in one of our foremost newspapers,
may not have had something to do with that entirely unwarranted
confidence in the "steam-roller" on the Eastern Front which prevailed
in England between August 1914 and May 1915: "I refer to General
Sukhomlinoff, the Russian Kitchener, who is reorganizing the Russian
armies. Thanks to him, the Tsar's armies are irreproachably equipped."
Compare p. 283.

An article appeared in a leading Sunday newspaper in the spring of
1919, signalized by this amazing travesty of the actual facts. In a
reference to our land forces of the early days of the struggle, the
writer spoke of "armies sent to war lacking almost every modern
requisite." Now, the Press generally manages to avoid grossly false
statements of that kind when referring to individuals; if it does fall
into such an error, the sequel is either an abject apology or else an
uphill fight in the law courts followed by the payment of heavy
damages. It is quite conceivable that the author of this unpardonable
misrepresentation imagined himself to be telling the truth and that he
erred out of sheer ignorance; but, if so, that merely serves to
indicate how badly informed journalists often are of the matters which
they are dealing with, when the question at issue happens to concern
military subjects.

The expediency of affording greater opportunities to that great body
of temporary officers who had joined up (many of them men of marked
ability and advanced education), for occupying superior positions on
the staff or for holding high command, was taken up warmly by a number
of newspapers at the beginning of 1918. It is not proposed to discuss
the theme on its merits--there was a good deal to be said for the
contention. The matter is merely referred to because of the manner in
which it was handled by the organs that were pressing it upon the
notice of the public. Reference was very properly made to brains. But
not one word was said about knowledge. Now, brains without knowledge
may make an efficient Pressman--one is sometimes tempted to assume
that the battalions of journalism are to some extent recruited from
this source of supply. But brains without knowledge will no more make
a superior staff officer who can be trusted, nor a commander of troops
of all arms who will be able to make the most of them in face of the
enemy, than will they make a successful physician or a proficient
electrical engineer. It was also completely overlooked by the
propagandists of this particular stunt that the experience which on
every front, other than the Mesopotamian, temporary officers had been
gaining was for practical purposes confined to trench warfare, and
that, if a decision was ever going to be reached at all, it would be
brought about under profoundly different tactical conditions from
those which had been prevailing. The whole question hinged upon
whether the requisite knowledge could be acquired, and upon what steps
would be necessary to bring that desirable result about. The writers
who dealt with the point perhaps recognized that brains were merely a
means to the end, and not the end. But if they did, why did they fail
ever even to mention the pinion upon which the whole question in
reality hinged?

Journalists, when complaining of the censorship, have put forward the
suggestion that this sort of thing ought to be left to the patriotism
and honour of newspapers, that, if such a plan were adopted, the Press
would of its own accord refrain from publishing any information that
might be of value to the enemy in time of war, and that there would
then be no need for any special official department dealing with this
matter. That sounds plausible, but it will not stand examination for a
moment. Granted that the great majority of editors and their staffs
would never dream of wittingly disclosing information injurious to
their country during hostilities, the fact remains that a chain is no
stronger than its weakest link. If one journal, in its eagerness to
attract, prints what ought to have been kept secret, the reticence of
the remainder is of no avail. Nor is this merely a question of honour
and patriotism. It is also a question of competence. Censorship
responsibilities demand knowledge and call for certain qualifications
which the personnel of the Press in general does not possess. A few
editors, no doubt, could be trusted to do the work efficiently; but
that claim to omniscience which is unobtrusively, but none the less
insistently, put forward by the Fourth Estate has no solid foundation.
One of the lessons of the Great War has been that censorship is an
extremely difficult operation to carry out even when in the hands of
individuals well versed in the conditions that arise in times of
national emergency. The idea that the Press could censor itself is
ridiculous. That such a theory should ever have been put forward
argues a strange inability to understand the essentials of the
subject, and sets up a doctrine of infallibility in the world of
journalism for which there is no justification.

The Press Bureau which was established at the commencement of the war
was a civil department, entirely independent of the Admiralty and the
War Office although it was in close touch with those institutions, as
also with the Foreign Office, the Board of Trade and other branches of
the Government. In so far as the War Office was concerned, the Bureau
dealt with the Operations Directorate, which was responsible for
watching the censorship of newspapers in general, just as it was
responsible for actually controlling the censorship of cables and
foreign correspondence. As the primary _raison d'être_ of newspapers
is to provide their readers with news, it was inevitable that
restrictions placed upon publication of information, however necessary
they might be in the interest of the State, would hamper the
activities of those in charge and be regarded as a nuisance. It was
natural that the Press should chafe at the restraint and should be
disposed to exaggerate the inconvenience to which it was put. But the
public, it must be remembered, have heard only one side of the story.
The country has derived its information concerning the Press
censorship from the Press itself--in other words, from what is to all
intents and purposes a tainted source. The nation has had to decide on
a subject of general interest on one-sided evidence.

In so far as the military share of the Press censorship was concerned,
some of the groans of its victims were, no doubt, well justified.
Delays were inevitable. But cases of unnecessary delay no doubt
occurred. Instances could be mentioned of one censor sanctioning the
publication of a given item of news while another forbade mention
thereof. It is human to err, and individual censors were guilty of
errors of judgment on occasion. Examples of information, which might
have been given to the world with perfect propriety, being withheld,
could easily be brought to light. How the humorists of the Fourth
Estate did gloat over "the Captains and the Kings"! There was at least
one instance early in the conflict of an official _communiqué_ that
had been issued by the French military authorities in Paris being
bowdlerized before publication on this side of the Channel.

Few of the detractors of the military Press Censorship, on the other
hand, gave evidence of possessing more than a shadowy conception of
the difficult and delicate nature of the duties which that institution
was called upon to carry out. There is little evidence to indicate
that the critics had the slightest idea of the value of the services
which it performed. Nor would they appear to be aware that the
blunders committed by the censors, such as they were, were by no means
confined to malapert blue-pencilling of items of information that
might have appeared without disclosing anything whatever to the enemy.
As a matter of fact, cases occurred of intelligence slipping through
the meshes which ought not on any account to have been made public
property.

When, for example, one particular London newspaper twice over during
the very critical opening weeks of the struggle divulged movements of
troops in France, the peccant passage was, on each occasion, found on
investigation to have been acquiesced in by a censor--lapses on the
part of overworked and weary men poring over sheaves of proof-slips
late at night. Nearly all our newspapers published a Reuter's message
which stated the exact strength of the Third Belgian Division when it
got back by sea to Ostend--not a very important piece of information,
but one that obviously ought not to have been allowed to appear. At a
somewhat later date, a journal, in reporting His Majesty's farewell
visit to the troops, contrived to acquaint all whom it might concern
that the Twenty-eighth Division, made up of regular battalions brought
from overseas, was about to cross the Channel.

It will readily be understood that incidents of this kind--those
quoted are merely samples--worried the officials charged with
supervision, and tended to make them almost over-fastidious. Soldiers
of experience, as the censors were, remembered Nelson's complaint that
his plans were disclosed by a Gibraltar print, Wellington's
remonstrances during the Peninsular War, the details as to the
siege-works before Sebastopol that were given away to the enemy by
_The Times_, and the information conveyed to the Germans by a Paris
newspaper of MacMahon's movement on Sedan. They were, moreover, aware
that indignant representations with reference to the untoward
communicativeness of certain of our prominent journals were being made
by the French and Belgians. So the Press Bureau took to sending
doubtful passages across for our decision--a procedure which
necessarily created delay and caused inconvenience to editors.
Publication, it may be mentioned, was approved in quite four cases out
of five when such references were made. One rather wondered at times,
indeed, where the difficulty came in.

But a verdict was called for in one case which imposed an
uncomfortable responsibility upon me. This was when a telegram from
the Military Correspondent of _The Times_ from the front, revealing
the shell shortage from which our troops were suffering, was submitted
from Printing House Square to the Press Bureau in the middle of May
1915, and was transmitted by the Press Bureau to us for adjudication.
It was about three weeks after Mr. Asquith's unfortunate reference to
this subject in his Newcastle speech. Publication of the message could
at the worst only be confirmatory to the enemy of information already
fully known, and national interests did seem to demand that the people
of the country should be made aware how this particular matter stood,
seeing that the labour world had not yet fully risen to its
responsibilities in connection with the prosecution of the war which
depended to so great an extent upon our factories. Choice of three
alternatives presented itself to me--leave might be refused, higher
authority might be referred to, publication might be sanctioned then
and there. The third alternative was adopted, although one or two
minor details in regard to particular types of ordnance were excised.
It seems to be generally acknowledged that publication of the truth
about the shell shortage was of service to the cause; but for some of
the attacks upon the War Office to which the publication of the truth
gave rise there was no justification whatever. The attacks, indeed,
took the form of a conspiracy, which has only been exposed since
mouths that had to remain closed during the war have been opened.

For the General Staff at the War Office to have formulated apposite,
hard-and-fast regulations for the guidance of the Press Bureau
covering all questions likely to arise, would, it may be observed,
have been virtually impracticable, or at all events would not have
really solved the problem. Sir S. Buckmaster, when in charge of the
Bureau, pressed me as regards this subject more than once, but there
were serious objections to hard-and-fast rules. Everything must
necessarily depend upon the interpretation placed on such ordinances
by the individuals who were to be guided by them. Thus a rigorous
enactment governing any particular type of subject, if strictly
interpreted by harassed censors, would prevent any tidings as to that
subject leaking out at all; while an indulgent enactment, if loosely
interpreted by the staff of the Bureau, might well lead to most
undesirable disclosures being made in the columns of the Press.
Censors planted down in London could not, furthermore, be kept fully
acquainted with the position of affairs at the front--a factor which
greatly aggravated the perplexities of their task. We of the General
Staff in Whitehall were in this respect very differently situated
from G.H.Q. Over on the other side, where the situation of our own
troops and of the French and the Belgians was known from hour to hour,
newspaper representatives could always have been instructed by the
bear-leaders in charge of them as to exactly what they might, and what
they might not, touch upon in reference to any operations in progress.

Matters in connection with the air service and the anti-aircraft
service--the two things to a great extent go together--are primarily
problems for experts; but it seemed to me, as an outsider, that
certain powerful organs of the Press made themselves so great a
nuisance over the subject of air-raids at one time that they
constituted an actual danger. Ridicule was poured upon the plan of
darkening the streets of the metropolis until an attack took place;
the first Zeppelin visit put an end to that. Then, when the threat of
raids became a serious reality, the demand for retaliation was loudest
from a combination of journals which happens to be extremely well
informed, although it was almost a matter of common knowledge that
anything of the kind was impracticable at the time because we had not
got the requisite long-distance machines. It was even contended that
the physical difficulties to be overcome in an attack upon the
Westphalian cities were far less than those which an enemy faced when
flying to London from the Belgian coast, although the distance to be
traversed over territory in the antagonist's hands was three or four
times as great in the former case as in the latter. (Not one reader in
fifty will look at the atlas in a case like this and learn, at a
glance, that he is being made a fool of.) This Press campaign did
grave mischief. Dwellers in the East End, who were suffering seriously
from the raids and were almost in a condition of panic, were induced
to believe that pro-German influence in high places was at the bottom
of our failure to resort to retaliatory counter-measures.

When the Prime Minister placed a newspaper proprietor in charge of
the Air Service, he made in some respects a clever move. Press
criticism practically ceased, and what there was of it mainly took the
form of demands for a separate Ministry of Air. It would have been far
better, however, if no decision had been arrived at on this subject
until after the war was over, when the question could have been gone
into carefully, and when a newspaper man would not have been actually
in charge.

It may be remarked in conclusion that, had procedure within the War
Office subsequent to mobilization more nearly followed the lines
contemplated before the war, and which were only resumed some months
later, there would probably have been less friction with the Press.
The question of the war correspondents which has been mentioned above
is a case in point. Then, again, a branch like mine which possessed an
adequate staff, had it been given a freer hand, had it been allowed
the requisite responsibility, and had it been kept better informed of
what was actually going on in respect to operations, could have
furnished newspapers with useful hints on many subjects. Take, for
instance, that incessant outcry during the first two years or so of
the war over the services of individual corps in action not being made
known. As far as I am aware, journalists were never informed that the
chief grounds for reticence in this matter arose from a simple sense
of fairness. Everybody who has had to deal with history of military
operations knows how hard it is to discover the actual facts in
connection with any tactical event, and what careful weighing of
different reports is necessary before the truth can be established. In
these days of electric communications, official reports are sent off
at very short notice and before details can possibly be known. If some
unit is especially singled out for praise, injustice is likely to have
been done; some other unit, or units, may in reality have done better
without the full story having come to hand when the report was
despatched.

In matters of this kind, the Press might advantageously have received
greater assistance from the War Office. At all events that was so
during the earlier portion of the time when the branch, which in
pre-war days had been supposed to control such subjects, was under me,
but only held restricted powers. The foregoing paragraphs have not
been intended for one moment to suggest that British journalism did
not, take it all round, behave admirably during the war. Newspapers
almost always fell in readily with the wishes of the military
authorities. On many occasions they were of the utmost assistance in
making things known which it was desirable from the military point of
view should be known. But there is no such thing as perfection in this
world, and, even supposing the Press to be conscious of certain
foibles of which it has been guilty, it can hardly be expected to
advertise them itself. So an attempt has been made in this chapter to
indicate certain directions in which it was occasionally at fault. The
most important point of all, however, is that, when journalism and
officialism happen to come into collision, the public in practice only
hears the Fourth Estate's side of the story.



CHAPTER XVIII

SOME CRITICISMS, SUGGESTIONS, AND GENERALITIES

     Post-war extravagance -- The Office of Works lavish all through
     -- The Treasury -- Its unpopularity in the spending departments
     -- The Finance Branch of the War Office -- Suggestions -- The
     change made with regard to saluting -- Red tabs and red cap-bands
     -- A Staff dandy in the West -- The age of general-officers --
     Position of the General Staff in the War Office -- The project of
     a Defence Ministry -- No excuse for it except with regard to the
     air services, and that not a sufficient excuse -- Confusion
     between the question of a Defence Ministry and that of the
     Imperial General Staff -- The time which must elapse before newly
     constituted units can be fully depended upon, one of the most
     important lessons of the war for the public to realize -- This
     proved to be the case in almost every theatre and in the military
     forces of almost every belligerent -- Misapprehensions about
     South Africa -- Improvised units could not have done what the
     "Old Contemptibles" did -- Conclusion.


My period of service on the active list closed a very few days before
the Armistice of the 11th of November, so that no claim can be put
forward to have formed one of that band of dug-outs who became
dug-ins, and who continued to serve their country for extended periods
with self-sacrificing devotion although the enemy was no longer in the
gate. But even in the disguises of private life a craftsman, fully
initiated into the mysteries by long practice, could appraise the
proceedings of the central administration of the Army from the
standpoint of inner knowledge, could watch its post-war proceedings
with detachment, and could note that amongst the numberless Government
institutions which took "it's never too late to spend" for their motto
after the conclusion of hostilities, the War Office was not absolutely
the most backward. Only by such formidable competitors as the
Munitions Ministry, the Air Ministry, and, last but not least, the
Office of Works did it apparently allow itself to be outpaced.

For relative prodigality during the course of the great emergency and
after it was over, the Office of Works perhaps, upon the whole, took
precedence over all rivals. Its prodigality was, to do it justice,
tempered by extortion. Did the system of commandeering hotels and
mammoth blocks of offices create new Departments of State? Or did the
creation of new Departments of State precede the commandeering of the
hotels and blocks of offices? Were the owners and occupiers of the
blocks of offices paid for them, or were they bilked like the hotel
proprietors? We know that householders were not only paid, but that
they were in many cases preposterously overpaid. And the worst of it
was that the Office of Works was not one of those _parvenu_
institutions, set on foot by Men of Business, which welled up so
irrepressibly on all sides. It was not one of those _macédoines_ of
friends of Men of Business, and of fish-out-of-water swashbucklers in
khaki, and of comatose messengers, and of incompletely dressed
representatives of the fair sex perpetually engaged in absorbing
sweets. It was an old-established portion of the structure of State. A
nomad offshoot of the War Office, such as that I was in charge of for
the last two years of the war, which after quitting the parent
building shifted its home three times within the space of twelve
months, enjoyed somewhat unusual opportunities for sizing up the
Office of Works.

In the matter of numerical establishment of its personnel, one
Department of State with which I was brought a good deal into contact
during the war, the Treasury, almost seemed to go into the opposite
extreme from that which found favour in most limbs of the public
service. If the guardians of the nation's purse-strings practically
let the strings go during the early months of the contest, this may
have been due to the effervescent personality of the then Chancellor
of the Exchequer. But they took an uncommonly long time to recover
possession of the strings. Was this in any way attributable to
insufficiency of staff in times of great pressure? There was none of
that cheery bustle within the portals of Treasury Buildings such as
prevailed in the caravanseries of Northumberland Avenue after the
Munitions Ministry had seized them; typewriters were not to be heard
clicking frantically, no bewitching flappers flitted about, the place
always seemed as uninhabited as a railway terminus when the N.U.R.
takes a holiday.

The Treasury has ever, rightly or wrongly, been anathema to the
professional side of the War Office. The same sentiments would appear
to prevail amongst the sea-dogs who lurk in the Admiralty; for after
my having a slight difference of opinion with the Treasury
representative at a meeting of the War Cabinet one day, an Admiral who
happened to be present came up to me full of congratulations as we
withdrew from the battlefield. "I don't know from Adam what it was all
about," he declared, "but I longed to torpedo the blighter under the
table." But when one had direct dealings with the Treasury its
officials always were quite ready to see both sides of any question,
to take a common-sense view, and to give way if a good case could be
put to them; moreover, when they stuck their toes in and got their
ears back, they generally had some right on their side. Such feeling
of hostility as exists in the case of the War Office towards the
controllers of national expenditure housed on the farther side of
Whitehall is perhaps to some extent a result of unsatisfactory
internal administration on its own side of the street.

It is the manifest duty of the Finance Branch of the War Office to
keep down expenditure where possible, to examine any new proposal
involving outlay with meticulous care and critically, and to intimate
what the effect will be in terms of pounds, shillings and pence
supposing that some new policy which is under consideration should
come to be adopted. But, once a point has been decided by the Army
Council (the Finance Branch having had its say), that branch should
fight the War Office corner "all out," and should regard itself as the
champion, not of the Treasury but of the Department of State of which
it itself forms a part. The Treasury, it should be mentioned, is
treated entirely differently as a matter of routine from other outside
institutions. Letters to it have to emanate from the Finance Branch,
while letters to other Departments of State--the Colonial Office, say,
or the Board of Trade--can be drafted and, after signature by the
Secretary, despatched by any branch of the War Office concerned. This
rule might perhaps be modified. A regulation should also exist that
the Finance Branch must not despatch a letter to the Treasury
concerning some matter in which another branch is interested, without
that branch having been given an opportunity of concurring in the
terms of the draft.

But no officials in any State Department probably were set a harder
and a more thankless task during the war than were the staff of the
Finance Branch of the War Office, and in spite of this its members
were always approachable and ready to meet one half-way in an amicable
discussion. They are also entitled to sympathy, in that the close of
hostilities in their case has probably brought them little or no
relief in respect to length of office hours and to weight of work. To
revert to normal conditions in their case will probably take years.
The grievance of the military side is that under existing conditions
the financial experts are too much in the position of autocrats, when
they happen to be recalcitrant on any point.

Who can that caitiff have been who abolished the plan of the soldier
saluting with the hand away from the individual saluted? Travelling on
the Continent before the war one was struck with one point in which
our methods were superior to those abroad--in many foreign countries
private soldiers had to salute non-commissioned officers in the
streets, which must have been an intolerable nuisance to all
concerned, and in all of them the soldier always saluted with the
right hand instead of adopting the obvious and convenient procedure of
saluting with the outer hand. There at least we showed common sense.
The Army Council were, no doubt, responsible in their corporate
capacity for abolishing the left-hand salute, but there must have been
some busybody who put them up to it. Whoever he was, I wish that he
had had to walk daily along the Strand for months (as I had)
constantly expecting to be hit in the face or to have his cap knocked
off by some well-intentioned N.C.O. or private trying to salute with
the hand next to him in a crowd. Their contortions were painful to
see. Had the War Office been guilty of such _bêtises_ when dealing
with the things that really mattered during the struggle, they would
have lost us the war. The reform was so inconvenient to all concerned
that it may have helped to produce those untoward post-war conditions
under which the men, if not belonging to the Guards, virtually
abandoned the practice of saluting officers altogether in the streets
of London.

Then, how about those red tabs? The expression "red tabs" is, however,
employed rather as a shibboleth; staff-officers must be distinguished
somehow when they are not wearing armlets, and were the tabs less
conspicuous there would be no special harm in them. It is the red band
round the cap that is so utterly inappropriate when imposed upon
service dress. It ought to have been abolished within six months of
the beginning of the war. General-officers and staff-officers who came
under fire had to adopt a khaki valance to conceal their cap-band;
they were to be seen going about in this get-up in the Metropolis when
over on duty or on leave, and yet no steps were taken officially to
assimilate their headgear to that of the ordinary officer. But for the
red band and its distinctive effect, it is open to question whether
officers performing every kind of special duty would have been so
perpetually clamouring to be allowed to wear the red tabs. The
practice of glorifying the staff-officer in his dress as compared
with regimental officers is to be deprecated, although his turn-out
should of course be, like Caesar's wife, above suspicion--to which I
remember an exception when making first acquaintance with a staff I
had come to join.

On reporting myself at headquarters at Devonport in the morning after
arriving to take up an appointment a good many years ago, I learnt
that there was to be no end of a pageant that afternoon. The British
Association, or some such body, had descended upon Plymouth for a
palaver. There was to be a review in Saltram Park on the farther side
of the Three Towns so as to make sport for the visitors. The general
was very keen on mustering as many cocked hats around him for the
performance as could be got together, and he pressed me to borrow a
horse somehow and to put in an appearance, proposing that I should
ride out with him and the A.D.C. as, being a stranger, I would not
know the way. So a crock was procured, saddlery was fished out of its
case and polished up in frantic haste, and in due course we jogged out
to the venue. On arriving in the park we found the garrison,
reinforced by a substantial Naval Brigade which had been extracted
from H.M. ships in harbour, drawn up and looking very imposing, while
people from round about had gathered in swarms and their best clothes
to witness the spectacle. As we rode on to the ground the
Assistant-Adjutant-General came cantering up. "The parade's all ready
for you, sir," he reported, "and everything's all correct--except the
Assistant-Quartermaster-General. He, sir, is _in rags_." He was.

There was one broad principle, the truth of which was brought out very
clearly during the course of our British campaigns between 1914 and
1919--the principle that commanders of brigades and divisions require
to be young and active men. There were exceptions, no doubt; but the
exceptions only proved what came to be a generally accepted rule. The
old methods of promotion in the Army, methods which hinged partly on
the purchase system and partly on the prizes of the service going by
interest and by favour, were highly objectionable; but those methods
did have the advantage that commanders in the field, whether they
turned out to be efficient or to be inefficient, were at least fairly
young in years as a rule. Wellington himself, and all his principal
subordinates other than Graham and Picton, were well under fifty years
of age at the end of the Peninsular War; Wellington was forty-five,
Beresford was forty-six, Hill was forty-two, Lowry Cole was forty-two.
Wolfe, again, and Clive, Amherst and Granby, the most distinguished
British commanders of the eighteenth century except Marlborough, were
all comparatively young men at the time when they made their mark. It
was only in the course of the long peace that followed Waterloo that
our general-officers as a body came to be well on in life--Lord Raglan
at the beginning of the Crimean War was sixty-six, Brown was
sixty-four, Cathcart was sixty--even if at a somewhat later date a
prolonged course of small wars did produce a sufficiency of young
commanders to go round for minor campaigns. It would seem advisable to
reduce the limit of age for promotion to the grade of major-general
from fifty-seven to fifty, and that for the grade of lieutenant-general
from sixty-two to fifty-seven. The great obstacle in the way of a
reform of this kind, as a rule, arises from the fact that the decision
rests to a large extent in the hands of comparatively old officers,
who do not always quite realize that they are past the age for work in
the field. That is not so much the case now, so that it seems to be
the right time to act.

The position of the General Staff within the War Office appears to be
pretty well assured now. But it also appeared to be pretty well
assured before the war; and yet there were those incidents of the
non-existence of the high-explosive shell for our field artillery
which nearly all foreign field artilleries possessed, and of Colonel
Swinton's Tank projects being dealt with by a technical branch and the
General Staff never hearing of it, which have been mentioned in this
volume. The military technicalist, be he an expert in ballistics or in
explosives or in metallurgy or in electrical communications or in any
other form of scientific knowledge, is a very valuable member of the
martial community. But he is a little inclined to get into a groove.
He stood in some need of being stirred up from outside during the
Great War, and he must learn that he is subordinate to the General
Staff.

The old project of instituting a Ministry of Defence has cropped up
again, very largely owing to the importance that aeronautics have
assumed in war and to the anomalous position of affairs which the
creation of an Air Ministry has brought about. Could aviation in its
various forms be left entirely out of consideration in connection with
defence problems, no case whatever could be put forward for setting up
such a central Department of State. The relations between the sea
service and the land service are on a totally different basis now from
what they were when Lord Randolph Churchill, thirty years ago,
proposed the establishment of a Ministry which would link together the
Admiralty and the War Office, each of which was under his plan to be
controlled by a professional head. It was in many respects an
attractive scheme in those days. The departments that were
respectively administering the Royal Navy and the Army were not then
in close touch, as they are now; they badly required association in
some form or other. But it has been found possible to secure the
needed collaboration and concert between them without resorting to
heroic measures such as Lord Randolph contemplated. The sea service
and the land service generally worked in perfect harmony during the
Great War--except in the one matter of their respective air
departments. There was a certain amount of unwholesome competition
between them over aeronautical material up to the time when one single
air department was established late in 1917.

Aeronautics do unquestionably constitute a difficulty, and a
difficulty which did not make itself apparent during the late
conflict in quite the same form as it might in future wars. The Navy
and the Army must both have air services absolutely under their
control in peace and in war; but there is also, no doubt, immense
scope for independent aeronautical establishments, kept separate from
the righting forces on the sea and on land. Three more or less
distinct air services, in fact, seem to be needed, and the question of
equitable distribution of material between them at once crops up.
Supposing all three to be administered, from the supply point of view,
by an Air Ministry, this institution may show itself disposed to look
better after its own child, the independent air service, than after
its stepchildren, the naval and military air services. Were a Minister
of Defence to be set up as overlord, he could act as impartial
referee. But this one phase of our defence problems as a whole can
surely be dealt with effectively without creating an entirely new
Ministry, for the establishment of which no other good excuse can be
put forward. The problem of preventing competition and rivalry in
respect to material between the three branches of combatant
aeronautics ought not to be an insuperable one, if firmly handled.

In this connection it may be observed that a certain confusion of
ideas appears to exist in some quarters between a Defence Ministry
co-ordinating naval, military and aeronautical questions, and an
Imperial General Staff concerning itself with the sea, the land and
the air. The two things are, and must always be, totally distinct. A
Defence Ministry would in the nature of things be an executive
institution. In the Empire as it is now constituted, an Imperial
General Staff can only be a consultative institution. A General Staff
in the ordinary meaning of the term is executive as well as
consultative; it issues orders with regard to certain matters, and it
administers certain military departments and branches. But so long as
the Empire comprises a number of self-governing Dominions and has no
common budget for defence purposes, the Imperial General Staff can
only make recommendations and tender advice; it can order nothing.

Amongst the innumerable professional lessons taught by the experiences
of the Great War, there is one which professional soldiers had learnt
before it began, but which the public require to learn. This is that
newly organized troops or troops of the militia type such as our
Territorials of pre-war days, who necessarily have undergone little
training previous to the outbreak of hostilities, do not make really
effective instruments in the hands of a commander for a considerable
period after embodiment. The course of events proved, it is true, that
the individual soldier and officer can be adequately prepared for the
ordeal in a shorter space of time than had generally been believed
necessary by military men, and that they can be incorporated in drafts
for the front within a very few months of their joining the colours.
But that does not hold good with individual units. Still less does it
hold good with collections of individual units such as brigades and
divisions.

The records of the New Army, of the Territorials, of the improvised
formations sent to fight by the great Dominions oversea, all go to
show that such troops need to be broken in gradually after they take
the field before they can safely be regarded as fully equal to serious
operations. Our Allies' and our enemies' experiences were similar. We
know from enemy works that, although the German "Reserve Corps" fought
gallantly during the early months, they achieved less and suffered
more heavily in casualties than would have been the case had Regular
Corps been given corresponding tasks to carry out. It was the same
with the French Territorial Divisions. The American troops proved fine
fighters from the outset, but owing to lack of experience and of
cohesion they took a considerable time before they pulled their
weight; moreover, the larger the bodies in which they fought
independently of French and British command, the more noticeable this
was.

Certain regiments hastily got together on the spot from men who could
shoot and ride and who knew the Boers and their ways, performed most
distinguished service during the South African War, so much so,
indeed, that an idea got abroad amongst civilians at that time that
the need for the elaborate and prolonged training, which professional
soldiers always insisted upon, was merely a question of prejudice.
Happily those who were responsible for our Army organization and for
its preparation for war knew better, and August 1914 proved that they
were right. It was not merely due to the stubborn grit of their
personnel that the "Old Contemptibles" carried out their retreat from
Mons in face of greatly superior hostile forces with what was in
reality comparatively small loss, and that they were ready to advance
and fight again as soon as they got the word. It was also due to rank
and file and regimental officers and staff knowing their business
thoroughly. Had those five divisions been, say, New Army divisions
just arrived at the front, or divisions such as landed under General
Birdwood's orders at Anzac on the 25th of April, they would have been
swept back in hopeless confusion. They would not have known enough
about the niceties of the game to play it successfully under such
adverse conditions. The framework would not have stood the strain.

The sedentary type of operations which for three years played so big a
part in most theatres was, it must be remembered, particularly
favourable to newly created formations. Mobile warfare imposes a much
more violent test. When really active work is being carried on in the
field by partially trained troops, the platoon may do capitally, the
company fairly well, the battalion not altogether badly; but the
brigade will be all over the place, and the division will be in a
state of chaos. Whatever conditions future campaigns may bring forth,
trench warfare is unlikely to supervene immediately, nor to be brought
about until something fairly important has happened; and it will not
continue to the end unless the result of the conflict is to be
indecisive. In 1918 there was nothing to choose between British
divisions which had had no existence in August 1914 and those which
had fought as the point of England's lance at Le Cateau, on the Marne
and on the Aisne. But wars will not always last four years. Nor will
the belligerent who has to create entirely new armies to carry on the
struggle always prove victorious in the end.


THE END

_Printed in Great Britain by_ R. & R. Clark, Limited, _Edinburgh_.





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