25 September 1915

General Sir Ian Hamilton, Headquarters, Middle Eastern Expeditionary Force - After dinner on 25 September, the Chief of Staff Braithwaite brought in a signal from Earl Kitchener to General Sir Ian Hamilton. This was another sign that the Gallipoli campaign was dead in the water. Now it had fallen behind not only the Western Front, where the Battle of Loos was nigh, but also of a possible new campaign at Salonika. Kitchener's telegram read as follows:

"On account of the mobilization of the Bulgarian Army Greece has asked the Allies to send a force to Salonika in order to enable her to support Serbia should the latter be attacked by Bulgaria, as well as by German forces from the North. No doubt you realize that if by such action Bulgaria joins hands with the Central Powers they will have a clear road to Constantinople and Gallipoli, and be able to send[Pg 210] large quantities of ammunition or troops, rendering your position very hazardous. Both France and ourselves have promised to send between us the troops asked for, viz., 150,000 men, and urgency is essential. It is evident that under these circumstances some troops will have to be taken from the Dardanelles to go to Salonika, but it must be clearly understood that there is no intention of withdrawing from the Peninsula or of giving up the Dardanelles operations until the Turks are defeated. Your staff officer has suggested to me that you saw no difficulty in reducing the length of your line and concentrating your forces by withdrawing from the position now held around Suvla Bay to the neighbourhood of the Kaiajik Aghala position whence a line might be drawn to the sea. Before the situation was changed by the Bulgarians' action we considered that, owing to the marshy nature of the country now occupied at Suvla and the approaching winter, this reduction of front would be strategically advantageous. An offensive along practically the whole line in France has now commenced. The infantry are attacking to-day. Far-reaching results are anticipated which, if secured, should greatly affect your situation. The projected dispatch of reinforcements of French and British divisions for Asiatic operations must be in abeyance until a decision in the Western theatre can be reached. The troops now at the Dardanelles which are required for Salonika would be two divisions, preferably the 10th and 11th. The French would also have to withdraw either a brigade or a division from their force at Helles for the same purpose. The Yeomanry now en route to you would also have to be diverted to Salonika and we should have to arrange to mount them from Egypt after their arrival. Cable me at once your ideas as to meeting these requirements. The Dardanelles Committee consider a withdrawal from Suvla to be advisable under the circumstances, but they had not seen your telegram No. 664. We have been asked to send the 15-inch howitzer, now on board ship at Mudros, to Belgrade as soon as possible."

Hamilton was utterly incensed.

"Amen - so be it! Our mighty stroke at the vitals of the enemy is to break itself to pieces against the Balkans. God save the King! May the Devil fly away with the whole of the Dardanelles Committee!! What arguments - what pressure - I wonder can have moved Kitchener to swap horse in mid-Dardanelles? In December K. as good as told me I was "for it" if the day should come along for his New Army to help the Serbians. G.H.Q. in France had belittled his effort to create it; they had tried to throw cold water on it (the New Army) and now we should see how they liked it going to Salonika! The reason why K., at that time, turned the project down was his view that one Army Corps was too [Pg 212] small a force to launch into those regions of great armies and that, if the Germans turned seriously in that direction, it would be gobbled up. But two Army Corps would starve, seeing we had no pack transport and that the railway would only feed 40,000 men. Nor had we any mountain guns. In February he resurrected the question but that time he was put off by the typhus. "Whatever destroys my New Army," he said, "it shall not be the Serbian lice!" Now he cables as if he was being quite consistent and sensible, now, when in every aspect, the odds have turned against the undertaking. As to the Bulgarians having "a clear road to Constantinople and Gallipoli" my memorable dinner with Ferdinand, and his insistence on his "pivotal" position, makes me perfectly certain that the bones of no Bulgarian grenadier will fertilize the Peninsula - whatever happens. And if the inconceivable were conceivable and Ferdinand were to work for anything but his own immediate gain - there is no room for them here! That fact is cast iron. The Turkish Empire is here in full force. Enver can't feed more! These numbers cause us no alarm. Since the last abortive effort of the Turkish Command to get their men to attack every soldier in the trenches knows well that the enemy are afraid of us. They dare not attack, they will not attack, and they cannot attack. We know that quite well. If K. would only come out here he would realize that the Turk has lost his sting. I don't mean to say he is not still a formidable fellow to turn out of his trench, but he can't attack any more: and that is just the moment we have chosen to sit down and do nothing; now, when the enemy has been brought to a standstill! During my absence Bailloud has wired saying he had received orders from his own Minister of War to arrange for sending away one Division of the C.E.O. and Braithwaite has cabled the startling news to our Secretary of State for War. Well, well. If the Greeks and ourselves are going to push through the mountains to help the Serbs to hold Belgrade and the line of the Danube, why then, no doubt, we are embarking upon something that would be fine were it feasible - something more hopeful than sitting at Salonika and in its salubrious suburbs, the "political" advantages of which were preached to us by Napier. But let no man hereafter talk of Dardanelles adventures. Mon Dieu! Once again see the dupes of maps preparing to dash out their brains, or rather the brains of others, against the rocks. If only Joffre and K. had looked at Belgrade over the guns of an Austrian Battery in Semlin, as I did in 1909! The line of the Danube is untenable except by a very large force against the very large forces that can, and will, be brought against it and there is no Fleet there to feed a large force. Also, the communications of such a defending force will not only be mechanically rotten but will also be strategically at the tender mercy of the most cunning Prince in Europe. We may think we have squared Ferdinand. But it is easier to square the circle than square a fox. On the Danube, the Central Powers can put and keep six men to our one, unless we control the river from its mouth to Belgrade. This we can only do by forcing the Dardanelles."

As ever with Hamilton - the only solution, the only question, the only matter of any importance was Gallipoli, the Dardanelles and Constantinople.

Sir I Hamilton, Gallipoli Diary, Vol.II, (Edward Arnold: London 1920), pp.209-214.