16 October 1915

General Sir Ian Hamilton, Headquarters, Middle Eastern Expeditionary Force - Late at night on 15 October Hamilton got a message that could only mean one thing - dismissal. The actual telegram removing him from command arrived on 16 October.

"Had just got into bed last night when I was ferreted out again by a cable 'Secret and personal' from K. telling me to decipher the next message myself. The messenger brought a note from the G.S - most of whom have now gone across to the other side of the Bay - to ask if I would like to be awakened when the second message came in. As I knew the contents as well as if I had written it out myself, I said no, that it was to be brought me with the cipher book at my usual hour for being called in the morning. When I had given this order, my mind dwelt awhile over my sins. Through my tired brain passed thought-pictures of philosophers waiting for cups of hemlock and various other strange and half-forgotten antique images. Then I fell asleep. Next morning, Peter Pollen came in with the cipher book and the bow-string. I got K.'s message pat in my dreams last night and here it is, to a word, in black and white."

"The War Council held last night decided that though the Government fully appreciate your work and the gallant manner in which you personally have struggled to make the enterprise a success in face of the terrible difficulties you have had to contend against, they, all the same, wish to make a change in the command which will give them an opportunity of seeing you."

How far we have travelled, in spirit, since K. sent me his September greetings with spontaneous assurances of complete confidence! Yet, since then, on the ground, I have not travelled at all - have indeed been under the order of the Dardanelles Committee to stand still. Charles Munro is to relieve me and brings with him a Chief of Staff who will take Braithwaite's place. On my way back I "might visit Salonika and Egypt" so as to be able to give the Cabinet the latest about the hang of things in these places. When I go, Birdie is to take my place pending Munro's arrival. De Robeck must give me a cruiser so that we may start for home to-morrow. The offer of a jaunt at Government expense to Salonika and Egypt leaves me cold. They think nothing of spending some hundreds of pounds to put off an awkward moment. What value on earth could my views on Salonika and Egypt possess for people who have no use for my views on my own subject! After breakfast, read K.'s cable over once more. "A War Council," it seems, decided to make the change. Did the War Council also appoint Munro? K. did not appoint him - anyway. Munro succeeded me at Hythe. In 1897 I was brought home from Tirah to Hythe by Evelyn Wood in order that I might keep an eye on the original ideas which, from India under Lord Roberts, had revolutionized the whole system of British musketry. I left Hythe on the outbreak of the South African War and during that war Munro went there. He was born with another sort of mind from me. Had he been sent out here in the first instance he would never have touched the Dardanelles, and people who have realized so much may conclude he will now clear out. But it does not follow. Munro's refusal to attempt a landing in the first instance would have served as the foundation stone for some totally different policy in the Near East. That might perhaps have been a good plan. But to start a campaign with me and try to carry it on with Munro has already been tried and found hardly fair to either of us. The intention of whoever selected Munro is so to use him as to force K. to pull down the blinds. But they may be mistaken in his character. One thing is sure: whenever I get home I shall do what I can to convince K. that the game is still in his hands if only he will shake himself free from slippery politics; come right out here and run the show himself. Constantinople is the only big big hit lying open on the map at this moment. With the reinforcements and munitions K., as Commander-in-Chief, would have at his command, he can bring off the coup right away. He has only to borrow a suitable number of howitzers and aeroplanes from the Western front and our troops begin to advance. Sarrail has missed the chance of twenty generations by not coming here. Let K. step in. In the whole of the Near East his name alone is still worth an Army Corps. My own chance has gone. That is no reason why my old Chief should not himself make good. I told the War Council we held at Suvla before the battle of the 21st August that if the Government persisted in refusing me drafts and munitions - if they insisted on leaving my units at half-strength - then they would have to get someone cleverer than myself to carry out the job. Well, it has come to that now. K. looms big in the public eye and can insist on not being starved. He must hurry up though! Time enough has been lost, God knows. But even to-day there is time. Howitzers, trench mortars, munitions, men, on a scale France would hardly miss - the Asiatic side of the Straits would be occupied - and, in one month from to-day, our warships will have Constantinople under their guns. If K. won't listen to me, then, having been officially misinformed that the War Council wish to see me (the last thing they do wish), I will take them at their word. I will buttonhole every Minister from McKenna and Lloyd George to Asquith and Bonar Law - and grovel at their feet if by doing so I can hold them on to this, the biggest scoop that is, or ever has been, open to an Empire. Rather a sickly lunch. Not so much the news as the Benger's on which we all feasted for our stomach's sake. Birdie came over at 4 p.m. with Ruthven. Both his A.D.C.s are sick. I am going to ask him to take on young Alec McGrigor. Peter and Freddie will come home with Braithwaite and myself. What a true saying, - a friend in need is a friend indeed. Were I handing over to Birdie for good I should feel unalloyed happiness in his well-deserved success. At tea Ellison, Braithwaite, Bertier, Colonel Sykes and Guest appeared. They looked more depressed than I felt. I had to work like a beaver before I could brighten them up. "I'm not dead yet!" I felt inclined to tell them, "No, not by long chalks!" What I did say to one or two of them was this, My credit with Government is exhausted; clearly I can't screw men or munitions out of them. The new Commander will start fresh with a good balance of faith, hope and charity lodged in the Bank of England. He comes with a splendid reputation, and if he is big enough to draw boldly on this deposit, the Army will march; the Fleet will steam ahead; what has been done will bear fruit, and all our past struggles and sacrifices will live." Dined with Freddie on the Triad. De Robeck and Keyes were all that friends can be at such a moment.

And so Hamilton left a darkening scene. Judgement of General Sir Ian Hamilton’s performance at Gallipoli is rendered difficult by the effective smokescreen behind which he and his defenders deliberately concealed the total lack of success in the operations under his command. Working in tandem with Churchill, his performance at the subsequent Dardanelles Commission was of dubious morality; but then it was inevitable that they would defend themselves as best they could in stressful circumstances. This was followed by the publication in his Gallipoli Diary which was in fact an emotive memoir. Since then a potent romantic mythology of failure by the narrowest of margins and betrayal by those at home has grown up, fuelled over the succeeding years by willing acolytes of both Hamilton and Churchill. Rationally Hamilton’s task was all but impossible given the inhospitable terrain, the vigorous Turkish opposition, the restricted forces available and the lack of effective artillery support. Nevertheless there is no doubt that his unquenchable optimism, over-complicated plans, inability to concentrate his forces and unwillingness to reflect the gravity of the situation in his reports to Kitchener went a considerable way to turn likely failure into disaster. Yet any criticism has to be tempered by the truism that even if Hamilton’s generalship had been brilliant, the end results would probably have been reflected only in minor tactical gains which would not have affected the overall result of the campaign. Put simply, Hamilton might have captured Achi Baba, he might even have taken Sari Bair, but capture of the heights of the Kilid Bahr Plateau and effective control of the Dardanelles were almost certainly never feasible - it was by attempting an impossible challenge that he doomed himself and others.

SOURCE:
Sir I Hamilton, "Gallipoli Diary", Vol.II, (Edward Arnold: London 1920), pp.272-275.