Autumn 1916 (Age 42)

Churchill received a letter of praise from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle regarding his ideas for caterpillars (tanks). Churchill compared them to the armoured ships called monitors. “The monitor was the beginning of the torpedo-proof fleet, the caterpillar of the bulletproof army.”

He spent most of this time preparing his defense of his actions for the Dardanelles Commission, which had begun its hearings in August. In one appearance before the Commission in September, he had made five points: “In regard to the operation, there was full authority, there was a reasonable prospect of success, greater interests were not compromised, all possible care and forethought were exercised in the preparation, and vigour and determination were shown in the execution.” He concluded that “the operation ought not to be condemned, even if it was not carried to its conclusion, simply on the grounds that it involved risk.”

But others did roundly condemn the operation, and Churchill’s role in it. He expressed frustration that he was unable to appear before the Commission to respond to attacks like that which appeared in the Daily Mail about “the contemptible fiasco of Antwerp and the ghastly blunder of Gallipoli.” He responded in print “on the course of the war by land and sea” and the Antwerp expedition in The London Magazine and The Sunday Pictonal.

But Asquith’s political crisis was now equal to Churchill’s. Lloyd George was setting out on what Churchill later called “his march as High Constable of the British Empire” by overthrowing the Prime Minister. Most Liberal Cabinet members went with Asquith, and the Lloyd George Government was sustained by the Tories, many of whom stated that they would not serve if the new Government included Winston Churchill.

Lloyd George still considered including his old friend, but when he asked the Tory leader, Andrew Bonar Law, “Is he more dangerous for you than when he is against you?” Bonar Law responded: “I would rather have him against us every time.”

Excluded from the Government, Churchill resolved not to join the Liberals in opposition. “I intend to sit in the corner seat in a kind of isolation.” He knew that he would have no opportunity to serve in the Government until the report of the Dardanelles Commission was published.

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