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Remembered Today:

The Murdoch Program BBC2!


Gardenerbill

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Any Idea where this report is hidden? I would be interested in reading it. There are some interesting views in the OH correspondence on the viability of the landings - most after the fact. One thing that has always troubled me is that very few regulars with experience of the APril landings participated and many mistakes were repeated.. ...MG

This troubles me too. I can understand the challenge of learning from what was taking place on the Western Front and then, if appropriate, applying the lessons in Gallipoli but to fail to learn from the April landings is negligent.

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I will look at the Official History of Combined Operations later, being restricted it might give some more insight to the reports mentioned earlier.

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I have checked the Official History of Combined Operations, it just refers to The Dardanelles Commission Report and the standard OH.

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One of the clips from the drama-documentary focuses on Murdoch's letter and the fact that it became an Official document. In one of the clips describing the 'inaccuracies' in the letter, Hankey's name appears which triggered some thoughts.

Maurice Hankey (later Lord Hankey) had a ringside seat as Secretary to the Committee of Imperial Defence and had the ear of Asquith and Kitchener and knew every key person in the Govt. He was also the Secretary of the Dardanelles Committe (not to be confused with the Dardanelles Commission). In July 1915 Asquith was horrified to hear Churchill was heading out to the Dardanelles and as a safety precaution decided to send Hankey to keep an eye on him. In the end, Churchill never went but Hankey still went out on what would now be called a fact-finding mission. He had carte-blanche to visit every part of the peninsula and was given the key to Kitchener's personal cipher in order to communicate securely.

Hankey's memoirs are embodied in 'Supreme Command 1914-1919' and contain a few chapters on the Dardanelles, including one devoted to his visit. He spent a few weeks at Gallipoli, orginally intending to return in early August but decided to stay for the imminent Suvla Bay landings. Hankey wrote a few long reports while there which are also reproduced in his 'Supreme Command 1914-1918' . He wrote a diplomatically worded but critical report of the Suvla operations on 12th August 1915 - his last dispatch from Gallipoli - before returning to London on 28th August. The following day he had personal meetings with Balfour, King George V and had a tete-a-tete dinner with Kitchener. During the subsequent days he met with Asquith, members of the Cabinet, the Chiefs of Staff, The Admiralty and War Office grandees and the Foreign Office to answer endless questions on the Dardanelles. He had the foresight to wire his Official report from Rome on his journey back. It had been printed and was in the hands of the Dardanelles Committee on Tuesday 31st August 1915. The report contained a few courses of action, the second of which was the evacuation of the peninsula.

Rather tellingly he mentions that opinion on the Dardanelles Committee towards continuing the campaign had rather hardened during his absence, suggesting the August failures were changing opinion. Prior to his departure the only opponent was Bonar Law. On his return most had changed their minds. Interestingly he claims that it was this report that was the catalyst for the withdrawal. Other factors he mention were the German's capture of Warsaw which caused a re-think by Kitchener and a decision to re-start offensives on a grand scale on the Western Front - a policy that would drain the limited resources. The Loos offensive started within weeks.

It is a point of conjecture that any decision to withdraw from the Dardanelles would need a scapegoat. While the decision to withdraw did not officially happen until November 1915, the removal of Hamilton made the decision easier to sell. While Hankey does not explicitly discuss the replacement of Hamiltion, his writings on the Dardanelles Commission give one the impression that everyone was watching their own backs from this point onward. Everyone was positioning themselves in the event of a withdrawal. To his own dismay Hankey was given the poisoned chalice of presenting the Govt's case to the inquiry. Later, when Lloyd George started backtracking on statements attributed to him, Hankey commented:

"This I take it, is an aftermath of the Dardanelles Commission. Everyone is so frightened of committing himself, that he wants to cover himself by all sorts of statements, protests or counter-protests". Italics in the original.

My reading between the lines is that Hamilton's was identified as the scapegoat in the immediate aftermath of the failed August offensive. The decision to remove him would have the added benefit of making withdrawal option (as suggested by Hankey in his Official report) an easier decision. Hankey's early reports indicated that if the August offensive failed, the whole campaign would be jeopardised as the onset of winter would make it logistically impossible to execute without a secure winter base.

To my mind, Murdoch's letter simply provided another convenient stick to beat Hamilton with. Hankey, Asquith, Kitchener and the Govt realised it had failed weeks before Murdoch's letter. To claim Murdoch's letter was the catalyst for Hamilton's dismissal is rather stretching its importance.

One might also consider that Ashmead-Bartlett's own 'interview' was published in the Times on 17th Oct 1915 he day after Hamilton's recall from the Dardanelles. The newspaprers were an integral part of the Propaganda Bureau and the coincidence of these events is interesting. MG

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Ashmead-Bartlett was reprimanded on 28th Sep and sent back to England where on 13th October he started his campaign to get his version of the truth out. From his diary, it is clear that senior officers were speaking out many weeks before;

3rd Sep 1915 " ... I then had a talk with General Mahon. He complained bitterly of the manner in which his division had been split up at the landing; and even now one of his brigades is at ANZAC, and he has never seen it since the operations began. He declared that both Hamilton and Braithwaite ought to go and only this could restore the confidence of the troops.. Never in fact was an army in a more deplorable state of moral disintegration.

The Staff of the 10th Division are animated by a dislike of GHQ. They were expecting Sir Ian at 4 pm. The meeting was not cordial, and only those members of the Staff whom etiquette compelled went out to meet the C-in-C while the rest purposely stayed in their dug-outs. The visit was very short and then they cleared off to Suvla to everyone' relief....

....This evening I dined with Unwin. He is furious in his denunciation of the chronic mismanagement all round"

7th Sep 1915. "I met the new intelligence Officer, Colonel Tyrell. He opened up the conversation by saying that the campaign had been wrongly conducted from the start. There are few that would dispute this... For some days past Keith Murdoch and Australian writer who has been allowed to visit ANZAC for a short times has been staying at our camp. He is very alarmed over the state of the Army.... He declares, and I think quite rightly, that unless someone lets the truth be known at home we are likely to suffer a great disaster. He is about to leave for London but he says that as he has only been here a short time and has only acquired a local knowledge of ANZAC he does not feel that his word will carry sufficient weight with the authorities. He therefore begs me to write a letter which he will carry through uncensored, telling the plain truth which he can hand over to the Government..."

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One other factor worth considering with regards to Keith Murdoch's letter and its influence on the decision to recall Sir Ian Hamilton:

Lt Gen Hon Sir F W Stopford, the ill-fated commander of IX Corps was relieved of command on 16th August just ten days after IX Corps started operations at Suvla. On his return to the UK, an aggrieved Stopford submitted his report which included severe criticism of Sir Ian Hamilton, claiming that his treatment had been unmerited. According to Aspinall-Oglander, Stopford 'levelled a few veiled charges at Sir Ian Hamilton'. On receipt of this report, Kitchener had four generals serving in London look at the report along with copies of the operating orders and instructions, as well as Hamilton's reports. The final say was with Kitchener who reported back to the War Office that the review had resulted in "considerable criticism of Sir Ian Hamilton".

The seeds had been sown. The criticism of Hamilton was already being processed through official channels before Murdoch's letter arrived. Murdoch's letter arrived fairly soon after the Generals' assessment.. Aspinall-Oglander discusses Murdoch's letter in the OH, and it is immediately followed in his narrative by the meeting of 11th October where the decision to recall Hamilton was discussed. A few days later Hamilton's own assessment of the potential losses from a withdrawal arrived. He pessimistically suggested he might lose half of his force. This was the last straw and the Dardanelles Committee determined that Sir Ian should be recalled to make way for a fresh mind.. Kitchener telegraphed Hamilton the next day to give him the bad news.

That Aspinall-Oglander chose to mention Murdoch's letter in the OH, is (I think) significant. It would probably be fairer to say that Murdoch's letter was one of many factors behind the dismissal of Hamilton. The main factor of course being his failure to achieve his own objectives.

I have not seen any of the Australian Press coverage in the immediate aftermath of the withdrawal. I would be interested to see how they dealt with the failure and whether it was positioned as a failure of British generalship. MG

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Thank you everyone for your posts, this continues to be an interesting and enlightening thread. On the subject of the folk music I quite like the Pogues rendition of 'And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda', however I am not sure what purpose it served apart from perhaps reinforcing the emotional response to the tragic loss of life.

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Am I mistaken in thinking that there was another (drama?) documentary about Keith Murdoch and Gallipoli a while ago? I watched this one a couple of days ago and most appreciated it for the opportunity to see forum pal Bill Sellars in front of the camera.

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You may be right about an earlier programme. I thought so to, and didn't watch,as I thought it a repeat

I've watched it now, and enjoyed it.

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Glad that Stopford has been mentioned again.................He was appointed by Kitchener but his appointment was not opposed by Hamilton, even though he was clearly not up to the task at hand. Stopford had chosen to command the landing from the Sloop HMS Jonquil, anchored offshore, but slept as the landing was in progress!!!

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Glad that Stopford has been mentioned again.................He was appointed by Kitchener but his appointment was not opposed by Hamilton, even though he was clearly not up to the task at hand. Stopford had chosen to command the landing from the Sloop HMS Jonquil, anchored offshore, but slept as the landing was in progress!!!

This is very unfair to Ian Hamilton; he asked K for Byng, Rawlinson & Bruce Hamilton and was turned down. He even complained about Stopford's CGS, Reed VC, but was again ignored by K.

He complained about Mahon; reminding K of how he had been let down by him at Bloemfontein, but to no avail.

The full responsibility for the useless dug-outs employed at Suvla rests with K and the WO

The supreme irony is that to sort out the mess of his own creation, K eventually sends Byng - alas, too late in the day

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

have you seen the Murdoch tweet of 25April2015?

https://twitter.com/rupertmurdoch/status/592025838687821825

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Interesting that.........................I have been reading Hamilton's Gallipoli Diary (Both Volumes)...............

I am unable to see anything in it in the form of communications to Kitchener about Stopford being objected to...........

Once things had gone wrong at Suvla Bay he wrote..............

"From General Sir Ian Hamilton to Secretary of State for War.

"The result of my visit to the IXth Corps, from which I am just back, has bitterly disappointed me. There is nothing for it but to allow them time to rest and reorganize, unless I force Stopford and his Divisional Generals to undertake a general action for which, in their present frame of mind, they have no heart. In fact, these generals are unfit for it. With exceeding reluctance I am obliged to give them time to rest and reorganize their troops.

"Though we were to repeat our landing operations a hundred times, we would never dare hope to reproduce conditions so favourable as to put one division ashore under cover of dark and, as the day broke, have the next division sailing in to its support. No advantage was taken of these favourable conditions and, for reasons which I can only explain by letter, the swift advance was not delivered,—therefore, the mischief is done. Until we are ready to advance again, reorganized and complete, we must go slow."

He then goes on to say.....................

Kitchener Replied:-

"If you should deem it necessary to replace Stopford, Mahon and Hammersley, have you any competent Generals to take their place? From your report I think Stopford should come home.

"This is a young man's war, and we must have commanding officers that will take full advantage of opportunities which occur but seldom. If, therefore, any Generals fail, do not hesitate to act promptly.

"Any Generals I have available I will send you."

Close on the top of this tardy appreciation of youth, comes another cable from him saying he has asked French to let me have Byng, Horne and Kavanagh. "I hope," he says, "Stopford has been relieved by you already."

Have cabled back thanking him with all my heart; saying I shall be glad of the Generals he mentions as "Byng, Kavanagh and Horne are all flyers."

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See

15th June, 1915. Imbros

"(No. M.F. 334). From General Sir Ian Hamilton to Earl Kitchener.

"With reference to the last paragraph of your telegram No. 5250, cipher, and my No. M.F. 313. I should like to submit for your consideration the following views of the qualities necessary in an Army Corps Commander on the Gallipoli Peninsula. In that position only men of good stiff constitution and nerve will be able to do any good. Everything is at such close quarters that many men would be useless in the somewhat exposed headquarters they would have to occupy on this limited terrain, though they would do quite good work if moderately comfortable and away from constant shell fire. I can think of two men, Byng and Rawlinson. Both possess the requisite qualities and seniority; the latter does not seem very happy where he is, and the former would have more scope than a cavalry Corps can give him in France."

and

"(No. 5501, cipher). From Earl Kitchener to Sir Ian Hamilton. Your No. M.F. 334. I am afraid that Sir John French would not spare the services of the two Generals you mention, and they are, moreover, both junior to Mahon, who commands the 10th Division which is going out to you. Ewart, who is very fit and well, would I think do. I am going to see him the day after to-morrow.

"Mahon raised the 10th Division and has produced an excellent unit. He is quite fit and well, and I do not think that he could now be left behind."

So the field of selection for the new Corps is to be restricted to some Lieutenant-General senior to Mahon—himself the only man of his rank commanding a Division and almost at the top of the Lieutenant-Generals! Oh God, if I could have a Corps Commander like Gouraud! But this block by "Mahon" makes a record for the seniority fetish. I have just been studying the Army List with Pollen. Excluding Indians, Marines and employed men like Douglas Haig and Maxwell, there are only about one dozen British service Lieutenant-Generals senior to Mahon, and, of that dozen only two are possible—Ewart and Stopford! There are no others. Ewart is a fine fellow, with a character which commands respect and affection. He is also a Cameron Highlander whose father commanded the Gordons. As a presence nothing could be better; as a man no one in the Army would be more welcome. But he would not, with his build and constitutional habit, last out here for one fortnight. Despite his soldier heart and his wise brain we can't risk it. We are unanimous on that point. Stopford remains. I have cabled expressing my deep disappointment that Mahon should be the factor which restricts all choice and saying,

"However, my No. M.F. 334 gave you what I considered to be the qualities necessary in a Commander,...”

[my emphasis]

Edited by michaeldr
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See

15th June, 1915. Imbros

"(No. M.F. 334). From General Sir Ian Hamilton to Earl Kitchener.

"With reference to the last paragraph of your telegram No. 5250, cipher, and my No. M.F. 313. I should like to submit for your consideration the following views of the qualities necessary in an Army Corps Commander on the Gallipoli Peninsula. In that position only men of good stiff constitution and nerve will be able to do any good. Everything is at such close quarters that many men would be useless in the somewhat exposed headquarters they would have to occupy on this limited terrain, though they would do quite good work if moderately comfortable and away from constant shell fire. I can think of two men, Byng and Rawlinson. Both possess the requisite qualities and seniority; the latter does not seem very happy where he is, and the former would have more scope than a cavalry Corps can give him in France."

and

"(No. 5501, cipher). From Earl Kitchener to Sir Ian Hamilton. Your No. M.F. 334. I am afraid that Sir John French would not spare the services of the two Generals you mention, and they are, moreover, both junior to Mahon, who commands the 10th Division which is going out to you. Ewart, who is very fit and well, would I think do. I am going to see him the day after to-morrow.

"Mahon raised the 10th Division and has produced an excellent unit. He is quite fit and well, and I do not think that he could now be left behind."

So the field of selection for the new Corps is to be restricted to some Lieutenant-General senior to Mahon—himself the only man of his rank commanding a Division and almost at the top of the Lieutenant-Generals! Oh God, if I could have a Corps Commander like Gouraud! But this block by "Mahon" makes a record for the seniority fetish. I have just been studying the Army List with Pollen. Excluding Indians, Marines and employed men like Douglas Haig and Maxwell, there are only about one dozen British service Lieutenant-Generals senior to Mahon, and, of that dozen only two are possible—Ewart and Stopford! There are no others. Ewart is a fine fellow, with a character which commands respect and affection. He is also a Cameron Highlander whose father commanded the Gordons. As a presence nothing could be better; as a man no one in the Army would be more welcome. But he would not, with his build and constitutional habit, last out here for one fortnight. Despite his soldier heart and his wise brain we can't risk it. We are unanimous on that point. Stopford remains. I have cabled expressing my deep disappointment that Mahon should be the factor which restricts all choice and saying,

"However, my No. M.F. 334 gave you what I considered to be the qualities necessary in a Commander,...”

[my emphasis]

Michael - can I ask the source of these quotes? Thanks. MG

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Still Cannot see anything that says That Hamilton directly does not support Stopford.......only that he proposes two other Generals that he feels more suitable to the conditions.

I accept that "tact" is required in these communications but at the end of the day the whole thing was turning into a disaster and his own reputation was a stake. If he really thought that Stopford was not up to the job (which he clearly was not) then he should have said so, surely. Even after Gallipoli I am not aware of Hamilton directly stating that Stopford was the wrong man or that he lacked the experience required.

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I don't think that you understand how difficult it was for a general in the field, thousands of miles away, to argue with an officer who was not only senior in rank, but also at the very pinnacle of the WO's executive structure. You also seem to have overlooked the date of the exchange - 15th JUNE 1915


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Stopford lasted 10 days in the field which probably tells us all we need to know.

In the correspondence between surviving officers and the OH author it is very difficult to find anyone who has anything positive to say about Stopford. It is interesting to note that Mahon was the part of the equation that prevented alternatives - similar ranked Officers who were not as senior (in years) that Mahon from serving above him. When Stopford was removed and the immediately available Generals reshuffled, Mahon resigned when De Lisle was transferred from 29th Div and put in over his head (Mahon was technically more senior). Effectively Hamilton was making decisions in mid August that he and Kitchener could not even contemplate in mid June. During the intervening two months tens of thousands of men had become battles casualties. It is a fairly catastrophic failure of command when sensitivities over seniority prevent the right men being appointed into such an important role - a role which might dictate the outcome of a campaign and the fates of tens of thousands of men.

It is a long time since I read the Dardanelles Commission report, but I can't recall any reference to this lack of moral courage when appointing the command.

Looking further down the chain of command, the 11th Div under Hammersley came in for much criticism. Here is a snippet from Col Malcolm (GSO1 11th Div) on 11th Div at Suvla and comments on his comments by Capt Coleridge (GSO 2 11th Div), who believes that even if they had taken their objectives they would still have failed.

"The simple fact is that neither the Commanders nor the troops were equal to the task which they were called upon to perform. This statement is as true of other Divisions as it is of the 11th [Division]" [Malcolm]


I agree. Mistakes these were and many of them, but these did not alone cause the failure. I am convinced , especially in the light of my experiences of battles in France that the whole enterprise was a gamble, and that the forces employed, especially artillery were inadequate for the task set them. Even if we had taken our objectives (I refer to KAVAK and TEKKE TEPE) I don’t think that we could have held them, supported as we would have been with only a few guns short of ammunition. In short the whole venture was badly found, and the results gained greater than it deserved! [Coleridge]

It is interesting to note the comments of men who were in the middle of the crisis.

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