Learning Curve, The Great War
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Transcript: Source2
Extract from a meeting of the British government's War Council, January 1915
(Catalogue ref: CAB 42/1/26)


MR. CHURCHILL said that he had communicated to the Grand Duke Nicholas and to the French Admiralty the project of a naval attack on the Dardanelles. The Grand Duke had replied with enthusiasm, and believed that this might assist him. The French Admiralty had also sent a favourable reply, and had promised co-operation. Preparations were in hand for commencing about the middle of February. He asked if the War Council attached importance to this operation, which undoubtedly involved some risks?

LORD FISHER said that he had understood that this question would not be raised to-day. The Prime Minister was well aware of his own views in regard to it.

THE PRIME MINISTER said that, in view of the steps which had already been taken, the question could not well be left in abeyance.

LORD KITCHENER considered the naval attack vitally important. If successful, its effect would be equivalent to that of a successful campaign fought with the new armies. One merit of the scheme was that, if satisfactory progress was not made, the attack could be broken off.

MR. BALFOUR pointed out that a successful attack on the Dardanelles would achieve the following results : -

It would cut the Turkish army in two;
It would put Constantinople under our control;
It would give us the advantage of having the Russian wheat, and enable Russia to resume exports;
This would restore the Russian exchanges, which were falling owing to her inability to export, and causing great embarrassment;
It would also open a passage to the Danube.
It was difficult to imagine a more helpful operation.

SIR EDWARD GREY said it would also finally settle the attitude of Bulgaria and the whole of the Balkans.

MR. CHURCHILL said that the naval Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean had expressed his belief that it could be done. He required from three weeks to a month to accomplish it. The necessary ships were already on their way to the Dardanelles. In reply to Mr. Balfour, he said that, in response to his inquiries, the French had expressed their confidence that Austrian submarines would not get as far as the Dardanelles.

LORD HALDANE asked if the Turks had any submarines.

MR. CHURCHILL said that so far as he could be ascertained they had not. He did not anticipate that we should sustain much loss in the actual bombardment, but, in sweeping for mines, some losses must be expected. The real difficulties would begin after the outer forts had been silenced, and it became necessary to attack the Narrows. He explained the plan of attack on a map.

SIR EDWARD GREY thought that the Turks would be paralyzed with fear when they heard that the forts were being destroyed one by one.

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