Winter 1917 (Age 42)

As Churchill celebrated the New Year at Blenheim, he realized that his chances of coming back to power were not good. As he wrote Lord Fisher: “Our common enemies are all powerful today and friendship counts for less than nothing. I am simply existing.”

The return to power would follow only exoneration by the Dardanelles Commission of Enquiry. In a letter to the Commission Churchill declared: “If ever there was an operation in the history of war which once having been taken should have been carried through with the utmost vigour and at the utmost speed it was the military attack on the Gallipoli Peninsula.” The War Office, he charged, was aware of the incompetency of the generals even if the Cabinet was not. After the military defeat, the politicians were also found wanting in failing to renew the offensive.

Upon receipt of a draft copy of the Commission Report from Lloyd George, Churchill wrote a long response to the Commission which concluded: “Public opinion is unable to measure the true proposition of events. Orthodox military opinion remains united on the local view that victory in 1915 could only be found by pouring out men and munitions in frantic efforts to break the German entrenchments in the West. The passage of a few years will throw a very different light on these events. They will then be seen in a truer proportion and perspective. It will then be understood that the capture of Constantinople and the rallying of the Balkans was the one great and decisive manoeuvre open to the allied armies in 1915. It will then be seen that the ill-supported armies struggling on the Gallipoli Peninsula, whose efforts are now viewed with so much prejudice and repugnance, were in fact within an ace of succeeding in an enterprise which would have abridged the miseries of the World and proved the salvation of our cause. It will then seem incredible that a dozen old ships, half a dozen divisions, or a few hundred thousand shells were allowed to stand between them and success. Contemporaries have condemned the men who tried to force the Dardanelles —History will condemn those who did not aid them.”

He repeated these sentiments in the Commons debate on the Commission’s Report: “When this matter is passed in final review before the tribunal of history, I have no fear where the sympathies of those who come after us will lie. Your Commission may condemn the men who tried to force the Dardaneiles, but your children will keep their condemnation for all who did not rally to their aid.

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