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Remembered Today:

Gen Sir Ian Hamilton - Not Suited To


PhilB
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Kitchener appointed Hamilton to command the Allied Mediterranean Expeditionary Force to gain control of the Dardanelles straits from Turkey and capture Constantinople in March 1915.[6] Hamilton was 62 and had been in charge of Land defenses for England. Whilst a senior and respected officer, perhaps more experienced in different campaigns than most, he was considered too unconventional, too intellectual and too friendly with politicians to be given a command on the western front (Gallipoli - L.Carlyon)

Too unconventional, too intellectual & too friendly with politicians. Could anyone expand on this? They don`t sound like disqualifying faults to me.

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Have you read John Lee's book A Soldier's Life - General Sir Ian Hamilton 1853-47 ?

It was published in 2000. ISBN O333 73444 0. It drew on Ian Hamilton's papers at the Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, Kings College Cambridge. 'In 1914 Hamilton was one of the most famous soldiers in the world a genuinely popular figure at home. Hamilton was as well known and as highly regarded as Lord Roberts or Lord Kitchener; together they were, simply, the most distinguished soldiers of the day.'

John Lee reminds us that 'during the critical battles around Ypres, Kitchener proposed to replace Sir John French with Ian Hamilton as C-in-C, of the BEF. Joffre greatly influenced by Sir Henry Wilson, insisted that he required no change in the leadership and the matter went no further.'

One can only speculate as to the alternative course the War might have taken had Joffre accepted the idea of 'Kitchener's man' in command of the BEF.

Hamilton's reputation was unjustly tarnished at Gallipoli.

Philip

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Hamilton's reputation was unjustly tarnished at Gallipoli.

Philip

I think a few thousand men still on Gallipoli may have disagreed with that.

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"The Turks did not beat us – we were beaten by our own High Command!"

As far as I can make out, these words with which Joseph Murray concluded his tome on Gallipoli, refer not to the command on Imbros, but to the Whitehall warriors! Kitchener being the prime suspect, who was only saved from carrying this particular can, by going down with the Hampshire.

I do not think that the men who fought there blamed Ian Hamilton

The Australian correspondent and historian Bean wrote

"I am honestly very sorry to see Hamilton go (from Gallipoli). He is a gentleman, and has always been courteous and considerate to us. The British Army has never believed in him, but he is a good friend to the civilians, and has a breadth of mind which the Army does not in general possess."

Returning to 1914: Hamilton may just have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Yes, in August 1914 he was C-in-C Home Forces (Carlyon's 'IC Land Defences'?) but Hamilton had only just arrived back in the UK on 15 July 1914 after a long world tour in his capacity as Inspector General of Overseas Forces. While Hamilton had been away the chess pieces had moved, and they moved again just a few short days after his return, when French became C-in-C, BEF. Hamilton was not in England when the assassin struck in Sarajevo; what would have happened if he had been?

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The suggestion that Hamilton was unacceptable as a Western Front general prompts the question - to whom? Who exactly were the presumably small group who decided such high level decisions? In 1914, Asquith was S of S for War, Douglas CIGS, Haig GOC Aldershot, Kitchener & French FMs.

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Once in he was in command of the BEF, then French seems to have had the last say there

Again, see Lee's biography of Hamilton, where he informs that when Grierson died, Hamilton put his name forward for command of II Corps, but French opted for Smith-Dorrien instead

Who was pulling the strings before that, I cannot say

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Once in he was in command of the BEF, then French seems to have had the last say there

Again, see Lee's biography of Hamilton, where he informs that when Grierson died, Hamilton put his name forward for command of II Corps, but French opted for Smith-Dorrien instead

Who was pulling the strings before that, I cannot say

French did not want Smith Dorrien, he was given command of II corps at the insistance of Kitchener. If you believe all you read, there was bad blood between French (A Cavalry man) and Smith Dorrien (A Infantryman) all to do with the Aldershot command, early in the 1900's which Dorrien took over after French, and made some changes that alienated him to French, and once again if you believe all you read, French was a man who held grudges, although in the Boar War both had got on very well!
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I think a few thousand men still on Gallipoli may have disagreed with that.

Gallipoli was a desaster in waiting, it was hurridly put together, totaly short of resourse's, and 2 weeks before the landings Hamilton did not even have a staff in place, he was told to get on with it and prepare as he went along! I have not read anything about Hamilton, only on what I have read on reading about Gallipoli, but on reading excerpts from his diary he was very uneasy about the affair right from the begining and told everyone who would listen. But his was not to reason why! So I dont think you can lay any blame on him, Churchill, Kitchiner, Asquith, Fisher, De Robeck, I think they all got to shoulder some of the blame, as do individul commaders on the ground, but then I have not realy studied Gallipoli. These are just views I hold from a small look at what took place!

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..........................................

Returning to 1914: Hamilton may just have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Yes, in August 1914 he was C-in-C Home Forces (Carlyon's 'IC Land Defences'?) but Hamilton had only just arrived back in the UK on 15 July 1914 after a long world tour in his capacity as Inspector General of Overseas Forces. While Hamilton had been away the chess pieces had moved, and they moved again just a few short days after his return, when French became C-in-C, BEF. Hamilton was not in England when the assassin struck in Sarajevo; what would have happened if he had been?

Sir John French had been nominated to command BEF a long time before August 1914 and in fact, was brought in from the cold to take up his duties after being forced to resign over the Curragh Affair. Hamilton would not have been surprised at that long standing arrangement.

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QUOTE (Phil_B @ Oct 6 2009, 03:44 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Quote:-

Kitchener appointed Hamilton to command the Allied Mediterranean Expeditionary Force to gain control of the Dardanelles straits from Turkey and capture Constantinople in March 1915.[6] Hamilton was 62 and had been in charge of Land defenses for England. Whilst a senior and respected officer, perhaps more experienced in different campaigns than most, he was considered too unconventional, too intellectual and too friendly with politicians to be given a command on the western front (Gallipoli - L.Carlyon)

Too unconventional, too intellectual & too friendly with politicians. Could anyone expand on this? They don`t sound like disqualifying faults to me.

I think possibly a clue might lie with Mr. Carlyon's unconventional view of the war. He is after all, more of a journalist than a historian. None of those attributes would disqualify a senior officer, in fact they would be more or less necessary to reach that position. The notion that they would be held against General Hamilton reflects more on Mr. Carlyon's standpoint and might well pose a question as to his reliability.

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You may be right there Tom, re French being C-in-C BEF designate earlier than his 28th July meeting with Ian Hamilton.

Re-reading Lee just now I see that the appointment at that time was Inspector-General of Home Forces – Lee has French getting that post two days before

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I have been pre-occupied and have returned. In War there is the enemy and then there are those who for what ever reason allow a situation to arise which if not quickly resolved could result in failure.

John Lee's book draws our attention to the failings in high places not in Gallipoli but back here at home. The Dardanelles Commision found many faults, unanswered requests and delays in providing military support which merely gave the enemy more time to organise his defences. The War Council failed to hold any meetings between 19 March and 14 May, 1915 and the expedition degenerated into trench stalemate.

One man was singled out for blame and he could not answer back for he was dead!

The First Report was published in March 1917 and states 'we are of the opinion that Lord Kitchener did not sufficiently avail himself of the service of the General Staff, with the result that more work was undertaken by him than was possible for one man to do, and confusion and want of efficiency resulted'. CAB 19/1, First Report of Dardanelles Commission. para n.

Apparently Kitchener never showed the stream of cables requesting reinforcements, guns and ammunition to the Cabinet. The evidence was so damning that Hamilton had previously agreed with General Callwell and Churchill not to pursue the matter following the death of the nation's hero.

Maurice Hankey, the Secretary of the Committee for Imperial Defence wrote to Hamilton on the 14th July 1916:

'To treat you as the Government has done, when you have successfuly accomplished one of the greatest feats in the history of the world and only failed to achieve complete success for lack of proper support, is simply to discourage initiative in the whole corps of Staff Officers. It is worth reminding ourselves that getting troops ashore in an opposed landing really did rate 'as one of the greatest feats in the history of the world' to military men in 1915 and 1916.'

There will be those in 1916 and even today who will either agree or disagree with the sentiments expressed by Maurice Hankey. The Australians at Gallipoli held Hamilton in the highest regard.

Those who have not read this book should do so and then draw their own conclusions in the light of the outcome of the Dardanelles Commission.

The Final Report of the Dardanelles Commission was published in December 1917 - the general conclussions are fairly lengthy - it contains this statement:

'We are of the opinion that, with the resources then available, success in the Dardanelles if possible, was only possible upon condition that the Government concentrated their efforts upon the enterprise and limited their expenditure of men and material in the Western Theatre of war. This condition was never fulfilled.' CAB 19/1, Final Report of Dardanelles Commission. page 86.

I appreciate its dangerous to look at things in isolation and therefore the statement should be read not only within the context of the Final report but also in the light of publications since, many of which draw on previously unpublished material now held in archives.

Philip

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  • 5 years later...

Hello-

This is a bit off-topic as I am not debating the merits (or lack there of) of Hamilton's command at Gallipoli. I just recently discovered my granddad's Certificate of Employment during the war which indicates that he served as Gen. Hamilton's valet. The date indicates Aug-Sept 1914 although I know this is incorrect as I have documentation that he was in the first wave into France with the Northumblerland Fusilers as a machine gunner in Aug 1914 and was wounded at the first battle of the Marne on 09 Sep 1914 (Source: Fusiliers' company diaries). He was returned to the UK for recovery and returned to the War thereafter. The details surrounding his recovery in England are spotty (not sure of the length of his stay). I know that he was initially sent to the No.5 General Hospital, Leicester for his wounds (strafed by machine gun fire). I know that the Gallipoli campaign began in Aug 1915 and the Hamilton was essentially relieved of this command in Oct. I believe the correct dates on the Certificate of Employment for the time my granddad served as Hamilton's valet should read for Aug-Sep 1915 as the next line reflects his employment with the Officers Mess from Sept 1915-Apr 1917, probably when the writing was on the wall for Hamilton's return to England. He was discharged from service on 17 Apr 1920 (yet another gap). He was discharged as a sergeant. I know that part of his time in service was in Turkey, so this might also fit with the Gallipoli campaign, although all of his medals reflect mostly his European service (1914 Star, British War Medal, British Victory Medal). Nothing in the service records that I have (either his personal records or those obtained online), aside from his Certificate of Employment, give me much to go on. He also has a Croix de Guerre amongst his medals, but I have no information on that either.

I have read a few of Hamilton's books about his life and the Gallipoli campaign, but there is nothing regarding granddad and his service. Any thoughts on where I might go to get additional information about his service in Turkey?

Thanks for any input!

Carol

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I would be interested to know, if it is at all known, how soon after the landings did the allies realize that Gallipoli was a lost cause.

khaki

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Hi,

If you attach your grandfathers name, regiment and number you never know but a member may turn something up for you.

Steve Y

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Dundee Evening Telegraph - Thursday 22 April 1915

Frank to a degree, Sir Ian does not hesitate to express his views, even when they directly concern himself, and it was in one of the service clubs when the conversation turned upon the sensations experienced by a General when taking troops into action, that he remarked, " I never went into action yet but that I was in a blue funk and wondering how on earth I should get through, and I don't believe that the man has ever been born who feels much different. "

Lord Roberts had the highest opinion of Sir Ian's capabilities. When he returned from South Africa with Lord Roberts he not unnaturally thought he had finished with active service for a time, and settled down at the War Office as Military Secretary. But When a few months later it was seen that the task of ending the war was likely to prove more difficult than was at first anticipated, it became obvious that Lord Kitchener was in need of a first-class assistant. Lord Roberts was very anxious that Sir Ian should return to the front. The latter, however, demurred somewhat, and was by no means eager to go out if someone else could be found.

At last there came another letter from Lord Kitchener, again asking that a Chief of Staff should be sent him, and adding, in his characteristic sardonic way:-

" One with brains preferred. "

" There, Hamilton, " said Lord Roberts, with a laugh, as he handed the letter to Sir Ian, " that settles it. You will have to go now. "

And go Hamilton did.

Mike

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