Autumn 1915 (Age 41)

Although Churchill remained on the Dardanelles Committee as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, he had no power to take action on any decisions. This, of course, in no way stifled his imagination nor his ardour to be involved, and he sent numerous reports and memos to his colleagues, including the Prime Minister. His main arguments were that the attacks on the Western Front were doomed to failure and that Britain must press forward in the Dardanelles.

One recommendation was that he and Lloyd George should form a special sub-committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence to report on the whole operation in the Dardanelles but there was little sympathy for Churchill’s position. As Germany and Austria entered Belgrade and Bulgaria joined the Central Powers, the Dardanelles Committee gave priority to the Western Front.

Churchill was not pleased when Sir lan Hamilton was replaced by Sir Charles Monro at Gallipoli. He later said of Monro: “He came, he saw, he capitulated.” Kitchener personally visited the Eastern Front and agreed with Monro: “It is an awful place and you will never get through.”

On 6 November the Dardanelles Committee became the War Cabinet, “time without Churchill, who asked to be appointed Govenor-General and Military Commander-in-Chief of British East Africa. But it was not to be and on 11 November he tendered his resignation and let it be known that he was prepared to go to France as an officer in the Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars.

He wrote Asquith: “I have a clear conscience which enables me to bear any responsibility for past events with composure. Time will vindicate my administration of the Admiralty, and assign me my due share in the vast series of preparations and operations which have secured us the command of the seas.”

In his speech to the House of Commons, Churchill noted that many smaller powers were predicting a German victory and his comments presaged speeches he would make again in twenty-five years: “Some of these small States are hypnotised by German military pomp and precision. They see the glitter, they see the episode; but what they do not see or realise is the capacity of the ancient and mighty nations against whom Germany is warring to endure adversity, to put up with disappointment and mismanagement, to recreate and renew their strength, to toil on with boundless obstinacy through boundless suffering to the achievement of the greatest cause for which men have fought.”

The family shared Winston’s disappointment. When Max Aitken, later Lord Beaverbrook, arrived at their home he found Eddie Marsh in tears and Lady Randolph in a state of despair. Only Clementine was “calm, collected and efficient. ” She needed to be because “the whole household was upside down while the soldier-statesman was buckling on his sword.”

Churchill was certainly ” the average newly-appointed officer. He was invited to dine with the Commander- in-Chief, Sir John French, “in a fine chateau with hot baths, beds, Champagne and all the conveniences.”

Although he had trained professionally as a soldier he needed to learn the techniques of trench warfare, so he selected the Grenadier Guards for his training. He reported with what he considered “a very modest kit. ” He was told by the Adjutant: “I am afraid we have had to cut down your kit rather, Major … The men have little more than what they stand up in. We have found a servant for you, who is carrying a spare pair of socks and your shaving gear. We have had to leave the rest behind.” Churchill replied that he was sure that he would be very comfortable.

However, he immediately wrote his wife requesting: “a warm brown leather waistcoat; a pair of trench wading boots, Brown leather bottom, and water proof, canvas tops coming right up to the thigh; a periscope (most important); a sheepskin sleeping bag, that will either carry kit, or let me sleep in it; 2 pairs of khaki trousers;1 pair of my brown buttoned boots; 3 small face towels.” Later, he ordered two bottles of brandy and one bottle of peach brandy and requested that this consignment be repeated every ten days.

He enjoyed special mail delivery; he spoke to Clementine on Sir John French’s private line; and he received many important personages including Lord Curzon, General Seely and F.E. Smith. After a tour of the French lines he wrote his wife that the French had received him “with much attention, more so in fact than when I went as lst Lord.” Notwithstanding these privileges, he was popular with his fellow officers with whom he shared his cigars, brandy and special foods.

He was also popular with the troops. He would keep watch so that others could sleep. He was impervious to chances of death and injury. His quarters were destroyed a number of times while he was absent. One soldier told The Times that “a cooler and braver officer never wore the King’s uniform … His coolness is the subject of much discussion among us, and everybody admires him.”

Before he was removed as Commander-in-Chief, Sir John French intended to appoint Churchill to command a brigade, but Asquith felt the appointment would be inadvisable. On 18 December French told the new Commander-in-Chief, Sir Douglas Haig, about his failure to keep his promise to Churchill. Haig kept French’s commitment and, as a first step, on New Year’s Day, 1916, Winston Churchill was appointed a Lieutenant Colonel commanding an infantry battalion, the 6th Royal Scots Fusiliers.

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