Learning Curve, The Great War
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Transcript: Source3
Extract from a meeting of the British government's War Council, January 1915
(Catalogue ref: CAB 42/1/26)

Source 3a

H.M.S. "Phaeton",
Nearing the Dardanelles,
11a.m., 18-3-15.

Dictated

Dear Lord Kitchener,

I have just sent you off a cable giving my first impressions of the situation, and am now steaming in company with Generals D'Amade and Paris to inspect the North-western coast of the Gallipoli Peninsular.

You must often, in the course of your experience, have noticed the change of moral atmosphere on arriving from the base at the front. Sometimes this may be one way or sometimes the other, but almost always there is a very noticeable difference. Here, at present, Gallipoli looks a much tougher nut to crack than it did over the map in my office. The increases to the garrison, the new lines of trenches nightly being excavated, the number of concealed field guns, the rapidity of the current, are all brought forward when discussing military operations. …

Source 3b

My present impression is, that if it eventually becomes necessary to take the Gallipoli peninsula by a military force, we shall have to proceed bit by bit. But it is my earnest hope that it will not come to this at all, and that the Navy will manage to break through. Everyone here seems to have the greatest confidence in de Robeck, and say that there could not possibly be a better man for the job. If he can only knock out these infernal searchlights, which are the very best and the most modern of their kind, I am myself very hopeful that he will do the trick. …

Source 3c

P.S. – 6 p.m. – This has been a very bad day for us judging merely by what has come under my own personal observation. After going right up to Bulair and down again to the South-west point looking at the network of trenches the Turks have dug commanding all possible landing places, we turned into the Dardanelles themselves and went up about a mile. The scene was what I believe Naval writers describe as "lively". The Queen Elizabeth was firing salvoes together with several other battleships about a couple of miles further up the straits than we were. Close by us were some steam trawlers who were being freely shelled by field guns, and didn't seem to mind it a bit. Close to us was the Inflexible coming out of the straits slowly. Suddenly we got a signal to stand by the Inflexible who had struck a mine. We turned right round to come alongside her being given a salvo by the field battery as we did so. Quite harmless.

Source 3d

We then steamed alongside the Inflexible with a whole crowd of destroyers, making for Tenedos. On our way we passed the French battleship Gaulois tremendously down by the head and escorted by all the other French ships. I do not know what happened to her but presume she also struck a mine. Meanwhile we intercepted a wireless message from the Queen Elizabeth telling the Ocean to take the Irresistible in tow – so something damnable has happened to her also, though whether it is a mine or a shot in her engines nobody here knows. This is, you will agree, bad luck, but on the other hand things might have been worse for the Inflexible got in all right under her own steam, and I suppose they will patch her up in not too long a time. But her magnificent battery of the latest mark of 12 in. guns will be a great loss.

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