24 November 1915

Lord Curzon of Kedleston, British Cabinet - After receiving Lord Kitchener's report on the Gallipoli situation the War Committee accepted the need for evacuation and indeed recommended leaving Helles as well on their meeting on 23 November. However, at the same time, the matter was referred to the Cabinet, who had the power to make the final decision in all cases that involved a major change in strategic policy – which this clearly was. A confirmation was anticipated after the Cabinet meeting on the 24 November.

But the members of the British Cabinet were appalled at the gravity of the decision and fearing to take the responsibility of ordering an evacuation that could have caused the deaths of thousands they began to prevaricate.

The most eloquent opponent of evacuation was George Curzon who believed that the Turks would be unable to bring heavy guns and ammunition to threaten the Allies positions. He also contended that the colder weather would reduce the sick rate! But most of all he stressed the appalling casualties of up to 50,000 men that evacuation could cause - predicting a piteous disaster. He then on went on to picture the scene.

"I wish to draw it in no impressionist colours, but as it must in all probability actually arise. The evacuation and the final scenes will be enacted at night. Our guns will continue firing till the last moment . . . but the trenches will have been taken one by one, and a moment must come when a final sauve qui peut takes place, and when a disorganized crowd will press in despairing tumult on to the shore and into the boats. Shells will be falling and bullets ploughing their way into this mass of retreating humanity .... Conceive the crowding into the boats of thousands of half-crazy men, the swamping of craft, the nocturnal panic, the agony of the wounded, the hecatombs of slain. It requires no imagination to create a scene that, when it is told, will be burned into the hearts and consciences of the British people for generations to come."

But as we shall see: even as the politicians pondered their fateful decision back in London ‘General Winter’ was on the march at Gallipoli.

C. F. Aspinall-Oglander, Military Operations Gallipoli, Vol. II (London: William Heinemann Ltd, 1932), p.430.