After the Dardanelles campaign resulted in Churchill’s removal from the Admiralty, he became Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, a minister without portfolio. Not only was this a profound decrease in the substance of power but there was also a humiliating loss of the trappings of power. Initially his salary was cut, his office far removed from Whitehall and he was not even assigned a messenger. The real powerbrokers like Asquith and Lloyd George ostracized him. Clementine shared her husband’s hurt so much that she told a cousin that she hoped to dance on Asquith’s grave.
Most painful was the imposed inaction. As he later wrote: “Like a sea-beast fished up from the depths, or a diver too suddenly hoisted, my veins threatened to burst from the fall in pressure. . . . At the moment when every fibre of my being was inflamed to action, I was forced to remain a spectator of the tragedy, placed cruelly in a front seat.”
Lord Kitchener, with the approval of Asquith and Balfour, suggested that Churchill visit the Dardanelles and report back on the situation. Recognizing the personal danger, Churchill put his financial affairs in order and prepared the following note for Clementine in the event of his death, “. . . I am anxious that you shd get hold of all my papers, especially those wh refer to my Admiralty administration … some day I shd like the truth to be known. Randolph will carry on the lamp.” Much to Churchill’s disappointment the visit did not take place because of the belated opposition to it from the Conservative members of the Dardanelles Commission.
On 10 September he asked Asquith if he could leave the Government and command a Brigade in France. The Prime Minister was agreeable but they faced the opposition of Kitchener, who did not want Churchill’s presence in his armies – a reprise of the 1890’s.
Churchill thus seemed to be wanted by none. He had obviously become the scapegoat for the military failures in the Dardanelles and his ideas for “land battleships” – tanks – were being scrapped by his successor. His strategic judgement was questioned. Max Aitken said his theories of war were “so hare-brained that it would be humorous if the lives of men were things to joke, about or trifle with.”
As Churchill began what would be a very long defence of his actions he never lost his belief in the rightness of what he had done. He suggested that it was better to be irresponsible and right than responsible and wrong. And he knew that he had been successful. In a public speech about his tenure as First Lord he proudly declared that “on the whole surface of the seas of the world no hostile flag is flown.”
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