24 February 1915

I THINK it may help us to a sound decision next Friday if we bear clearly in mind that the forcing of the Dardanelles is the preliminary stage of two military operations, which, are quite separable in fact, and ought to be separated in our thoughts. I will call them respectively the Bosphorus operation and the Balkan operation.

Committee of Imperial Defence

The War

The Dardanelles and Balkans Operation

Memorandum by Mr. A. J. Balfour

 

2 Whitehall Gardens, S.W.,

February 24, 1915

 

SECRET

The War

I THINK it may help us to a sound decision next Friday if we bear clearly in mind that the forcing of the Dardanelles is the preliminary stage of two military operations, which, are quite separable in fact, and ought to be separated in our thoughts. I will call them respectively the Bosphorus operation and the Balkan operation.

By the Bosphorus. Operation, I mean the control of the Sea of Marmora, the Bosphorus, and Constantinople. Were this carried out successfully, although if stood alone, we should paralyse Turkey; we should secure free communications with Russia, with all that this carries with it; we should have defeated the German ambitions in the Near East; we should (I believe) have secured the neutrality of Bulgaria; and we should have shown to all the world what sea power means.

These advantages are not easy to over-estimate. Yet I fully admit that they would be far surpassed if we could bring to a successful issue the second, or Balkan policy. This policy aims at nothing less, than bringing into the struggle at least Roumania and Greece, possibly Bulgaria, and uniting the whole of the South-East of Europe with Britain and France in a combined action against the Central Powers.

If this could be successfully effected, its influence on the fortunes of the war must be great, and might be decisive.

….............................

The conclusions I draw are as follows:- We must send as many troops as may be required to make the Bosphorus operation, to which we are now committed, a success. …...............

…..........................one further, observation would I make, which points in the direction of not being niggardly as regards the number of troops we send or their quality. We are all agreed that, whatever else is done, the Bosphorus operation must be carried through to a successful termination. This may involve a pitched battle with Turkish troops in the neighbourhood of Constantinople; and, so far as I could gather from our last discussion, we have no very precise information as to the number and quality of the Turkish troops with which, in such circumstances, we might have to deal. Evidently we must work with ample margins, for a check there might amount to a disaster.

A. J. B.

February 24, 1915.

Ironic to note that after Sir Winston Churchill was removed, who should be made First Lord of the Admiralty; none other than Mr. A. J. Balfour

 

SOURCE:
[NB: the full memorandum is to be found at the National Archives ref. CAB/24/1]