Thursday, July 24, 2014

THE GATHERING STORM: Winston Churchill




Privately Churchill called them 'bloody Yankees' - but with a lover's ardour he fawned, flattered and flirted to woo the U.S.


Next month sees the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II. It was a conflict that Britain could not have won without one man - Winston Churchill.

And it was his inspiration that prevented us from joining the rest of Europe in surrendering to Hitler. To mark the occasion, the Mail is publishing a major two-week series by the distinguished war historian Max Hastings.

Today, in part four, he tells how Churchill realised Britain's only chance of beating Nazi Germany lay in persuading the United States to join the war.

Winston Churchill was standing in front of the washbasin in his bedroom and shaving with his old-fashioned Valet razor when his son Randolph burst in.

Churchill had been prime minister for a week, taking over in a crisis as German troops were on the march, scything through Belgium and France and heading for the Channel ports.

Randolph sat and waited. Later, he described what happened next. 'After two or three minutes of hacking away at his face, he half-turned and said: "I think I see my way through." He resumed his shaving.

Franklin D. Roosevelt (left) was courted by Winston Churchill, but the Anglo-American relationship was often a rocky one

Charm offensive: Franklin D. Roosevelt (left) was courted by Winston Churchill, but the Anglo-American relationship was often a rocky one

'I was astounded, and said: "Do you mean that we can avoid defeat?" (which seemed credible) "or beat the bastards?" (which seemed incredible). He flung his razor into the basin, swung around and said with great intensity: "Of course we can beat them. I shall drag the United States in."'

Here was a characteristic Churchillian flash of revelation, and all the more brilliant because it came in 1940, when the fighting had barely begun and the prospect of the U.S. joining in was remote.

A poll at the time showed Americans were opposed to participation in the European conflict by an overwhelming 13 to one. The Senate rejected a proposal to sell ships and planes to Britain and the attorney-general ruled such a sale illegal under the Neutrality Act.

Anti-British feeling was rife. One correspondent to a newspaper in Philadelphia professed to see no difference between 'the oppressor of the Jews and Czechs' - Nazi Germany - and 'the oppressor of the Irish and of India' - the United Kingdom.

Many U.S. generals were equally resistant to participating in the war and dubious about the British as prospective allies. Some senior officers unashamedly reserved their admiration for the Germans.

In Britain, meanwhile, few people had anything but contempt for Americans for absenting themselves from the struggle against Hitler. 'I have little faith in them,' a Battle of Britain pilot wrote. 'I suppose in God's own time God's own country will fight.' But he wasn't holding his breath.


Little faith: The British despised the Americans for not joining in the struggle against Hitler

Bitterness and suspicion came from all levels of society. Lord Halifax, Britain's ambassador in Washington, admitted in private that 'I have never liked Americans.' Many Tory MPs shared his distaste. One wrote: 'They really are a strange and unpleasing people. It is a nuisance that we are so dependent on them.'

Even Churchill was heard to refer to 'those bloody Yankees'.

Yet he perceived with a clarity that eluded most of his fellow countrymen that U.S. aid was the only thing that would make an Allied victory over Hitler possible. On its own, the best Britain could do was to avoid defeat. Not until the U.S. joined the war could winning be a realistic aspiration.

Thereafter, Churchill wooed, flattered, charmed and strong-armed the United States with consummate skill as he fought to persuade Americans to set aside their caricature view of Britain as a nation of stuffed-shirt sleepy-heads and to see her people instead as battling champions of freedom.

Few lovers expended as much ink and thought as Churchill did in his long personal letters to President Franklin Roosevelt, two, sometimes three, times a week. The least patient of men, he displayed almost unfailing forbearance.

It helped that he knew the United States and had been a frequent visitor there. He had met presidents, Hollywood stars and wealthy families such as the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers.

In fact, many of his British contemporaries saw in Churchill American behavioural traits, above all a taste for showmanship. These his own aristocratic class disliked, but they now proved of incomparable value.

He had to play a clever game, balancing the need to present Britain as a prospective winner against the need to exert pressure by emphasising the threat of disaster if America held back and Hitler won.

On one occasion he was urged to bolster Britain's case by publishing details of the appalling loss of ships to German submarines. In three months, 142 had been sent to the bottom.

Churchill decided this was the wrong tactic. 'We shall get the Americans in by showing courage and boldness and prospects of success and not by running ourselves down,' he declared.

He exhorted like never before. 'A wonderful story is unfolding before our eyes,' he encouraged American listeners in a radio broadcast, 'and on both sides of the Atlantic we are a part of it.

'Our future and that of many generations will be shaped by the resolves we take and the deeds we do. Be proud that we have been born at this cardinal time for so great an age and so splendid an opportunity of service.'

He pleaded like never before. There was little deference in his make-up - none, indeed, towards any of his fellow countrymen save the King and the head of his own family, the Duke of Marlborough. Yet in 1940-41 he displayed this quality in all his dealings with Americans, and above all their president.

With the stakes so high, he was without self-consciousness, far less embarrassment. He subordinated pride to need and endured slights without visible resentment.

He flattered like never before, greeting every American visitor as if his presence did Britain honour. When a new ambassador, 'Gil' Winant, came from Washington, he was met off the plane by the Duke of Kent and taken by special train to Windsor.

There, George VI himself was waiting at the station to drive Winant in his own car to the Castle. Never in history had a foreign diplomat been received with such ceremony.

Another envoy, the millionaire Averell Harriman, was enfolded in a similar warm prime ministerial embrace. He was given his own office at the Admiralty and spent almost all his weekends at Chequers. Churchill invited him to a Cabinet committee meeting and convoyed him like a prize exhibit on his own travels around the country.

Harriman's daughter, Kathleen, gave a very positive report on Churchill, likening him to 'a kindly teddy bear. I'd expected an overpowering, rather terrifying man. He's quite the opposite: very gracious, has a wonderful smile and isn't at all hard to talk to.'

But by far the most important of the envoys sent to Britain to take a view of the country's predicament was Harry Hopkins, the president's personal emissary. He fell totally for the charm offensive. 'I have never had such an enjoyable time as I had with Mr Churchill,' he said afterwards.

During the month of his visit, the prime minister diverted his special guest with a succession of dinner-table monologues, strewing phrases like rose petals in the path of this most important and receptive of visitors.

'I expected him to be terrifying, but he was like a kindly teddy'

Colleagues had for years rolled their eyes impatiently at Winston's extravagant rhetoric. But his sonorous style had an exceptional appeal for Americans. Hopkins had never before witnessed such effortless, magnificent talk. He was entranced by his host. 'Jesus Christ! What a man!'

He was also impressed by the calm with which the prime minister received bad news. Hopkins and Churchill were relaxing at the private viewing of a film after dinner one night when word came that a Royal Navy cruiser had been sunk in the Mediterranean. The show went on regardless.

In his report to the president, Hopkins concluded: 'People here are amazing, from Churchill down, and if courage alone can win - the result will be inevitable. But they need our help desperately.' Such opinions were crucial in shifting the mood in America Britain's way.

But it was a slow process, with numerous humiliations for Britain along the way. When the U.S. lifted its arms ban and agreed to supply Britain with guns, tanks and planes, it was on one strictly enforced condition - cash on delivery.

While America reaped huge profits from these arm sales, the British government exhausted every expedient to meet U.S. invoices. From Cape Town in South Africa, an American warship collected Britain's last £50million in gold bullion.

During the Battle of Britain, the chancellor of the exchequer suggested calling in all the nation's gold wedding rings and melting them down to pay the bills. Churchill vetoed such a drastic measure, unless it became necessary to make a parade of it to shame the Americans.

The underlying problem was a widespread American belief in British opulence, quite at odds with reality. The U.S. administration even demanded an audited account of Britain's assets because it suspected Churchill was not being honest about resources. British ministers found the demand humiliating.

It was only when the last of Britain's gold and foreign assets had been surrendered that the embattled nation began to receive direct aid from the U.S., through the 'lend-lease' scheme.

When the U.S. Congress agreed this in March 1941, Churchill's relief was boundless. It ensured that, even though Britain's cash was exhausted, shipments of weapons and supplies kept coming.

But the long-term price was high. Many British businesses in America were sold at fire-sale prices for whatever American rivals chose to pay.

Lend-lease's conditions constraining British trade were so stringent that London had to plead with Washington to be allowed to buy Argentine meat, vital to feeding the British people. The governor of the Bank of England, Montagu Norman, wrote in March 1941 that 'we are entirely in the hands of American "friends"'.

Churchill pleaded with Roosevelt that, if Britain's cash drain to the U.S. continued, then, though 'victory was won with our blood and sweat, and civilisation saved, we should stand stripped to the bone'. Roosevelt ignored him. He gave not a thought to Britain's post-war solvency.

Churchill pleaded with Roosevelt (left) to halt the 'cash drain'. Many British businesses suffered as they were sold at fire-sale prices for whatever American rivals chose to pay

Cold shoulder: Churchill pleaded with Roosevelt (left) to halt the 'cash drain'. Many British businesses suffered as they were sold at fire-sale prices for whatever American rivals chose to pay

All of this indignity Churchill not only swallowed but concealed in his rhetoric, praising American generosity and 'unselfishness'. In reality, U.S. policy towards Britain in World War II was anything but that.

The view of most British people was that the U.S. was providing them with minimal means to do dirty work that the Americans ought properly to be doing themselves.

With American arms secured and now flooding across the Atlantic, Churchill's task switched to trying to involve the U.S. militarily in the war as well. This was not going to be easy.

Roosevelt had been won over to Britain's side, chiefly by Hopkins's advocacy, but he still considered himself-lacking any mandate to dispatch American sons to fight in Europe.

He was bent upon assisting the British by all possible means to avert defeat. But he had no intention of outpacing popular sentiment at home by leading a political charge towards war when so many of his people were opposed to it, not least his generals.

This continued to exasperate the British. A Tory MP wrote: 'The idea of being our armoury and supply furnisher seems to appeal to the Yanks as their share in the war for democracy.

'They are told that if we lose the war they will be next on Hitler's list, and yet they seem quite content to leave the actual fighting to us. They will do anything except fight.'

Roosevelt offered much to Britain - aircrew training, warship repair facilities and growing assistance to Atlantic convoy escorts. But he still stood well short of going to war. In Washington, ambassador Halifax observed wearily that trying to pin down the Americans was like 'a disorderly day's rabbit-shooting'.

'I went to bed and slept the sleep of the saved and thankful'

Churchill persuaded himself that, if this was to change, he needed to meet Roosevelt face to face and use all his personal charm and powers of persuasion on him.

When the president agreed to a shipboard rendezvous off the coast of Canada, the PM's hopes were unbounded. He wrote to the Queen enthusiastically: 'I do not think our friend would have asked me to go so far unless he had in mind some further forward step.'

He cabled Roosevelt with a pointed reminder of the common cause of World War I. 'It is 27 years ago that Huns began their last war. We must make a good job of it this time. Twice ought to be enough.' But his language assumed a far closer community of purpose than Roosevelt had in mind.

Churchill set off for the meeting in grand style with what his private secretary, Jock Colville, described as 'a retinue Cardinal Wolsey might have envied'. The storerooms of the warship carrying him across the Atlantic were packed with delicacies from Fortnum & Mason, together with 90 grouse, killed ahead of the usual shooting season, to provide a treat for his exalted guests.

On the journey, he seized the opportunity to read with relish three of C.S. Forester's Hornblower novels about the Napoleonic wars. He fantasised about the Tirpitz, one of Hitler's battleships, coming to intercept him on the high seas and a great naval battle being fought with him at its heart.

As the British ship and its U.S. counterpart bringing the president dropped anchor in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland, they symbolised what was at stake. Side by side, the pale peacetime shading of the American warship contrasted with the zig-zag camouflage of the British vessel, dressed for battle.

Churchill went to work, brilliantly stagemanaging a combined Sunday service and personally choosing hymns like Onward Christian Soldiers. It was held on deck before a pulpit draped with the flags of the two nations. Scarcely a man present was unmoved.

When the two great leaders got down to talking, they quickly established an easy intimacy and a joking informality between them. The president adopted his almost unfailing geniality, matched by vagueness on every issue of delicacy.

As for Churchill, no suitor for marriage could have equalled his charm and enthusiasm. He strove to please the president, and a fascinated Roosevelt was perfectly willing to be pleased.

Here, together for the first time, were the most fluent conversationalists of their age. Even when substance was lacking in their exchanges, there was no danger of silences.

They had much in common - high social background, intense literacy, love of all things naval, addiction to power, and supreme gifts as communicators. Both were stars on the world stage. Neither seemed much reduced by the fact that one was a 59-year-old cripple, the other a man of 66 who over-indulged in alcohol and cigars.

But they were very different in personality and skills. Roosevelt had a brilliant instinct for reading people, a gift for treating every new acquaintance as if they had known each other all their lives. Churchill, by contrast, had scant social interest in others, and often displayed poor judgment of men.

Churchill loved only Clementine, his wife, and himself, while Roosevelt had a number of mistresses. The president sometimes uttered great truths, but he was also a natural dissembler, capable of being both frank and evasive at the same time. Churchill was what he seemed. Roosevelt was not.

Churchill was faithful to his wife Clementine, while Roosevelt had a number of mistresses

Devoted: Churchill was faithful to his wife Clementine, while Roosevelt had a number of mistresses

Later Churchill told his son Randolph that he and Roosevelt had made 'a deep and intimate contact of friendship' in the three days they were together. It wasn't strictly true.

They achieved a friendship of state. One observer noted how 'they appraised each other through the practised eyes of professionals, and from this appraisal resulted a degree of admiration and sympathetic understanding of each other's professional problems.'

But they did not become chums, though Churchill was keen for this to happen. Several times during the conference, he asked Harriman - the U.S. envoy he had charmed at Chequers - if the president liked him. Here was evidence of the vast anxiety and vulnerability he was feeling.

And for all the president's social warmth, he never indulged romantic lunges of the kind to which Churchill was prone. Nor did he feel much private warmth towards Britain.

Before they parted, the president offered the prime minister words of goodwill and a further 150,000 rifles. But there was nothing that promised America's early entry into the war. This was what Churchill had come for, and he did not get it. Roosevelt left Placentia with the same mindset he had taken there.

Churchill arrived back in Britain 'deeply perplexed to know how the deadlock is to be broken and the United States brought boldly and honourably into the war'.

The Japanese did the job for him by attacking the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor. He jumped up from the dinner table when he heard the news and within minutes was on the phone enthusiastically to Roosevelt.

That night of December 7, 1941, Churchill wrote in a draft of his memoirs that 'saturated and satiated with emotion and sensation, I went to bed and slept the sleep of the saved and thankful.'

His long campaign of seduction was not responsible for U.S. entry into the war. Japanese aggression produced an outcome which the president, left to himself, might not have willed or accomplished for many months, if ever.

What is certain is that Churchill had sown seeds that only he could have nurtured, for a harvest which he now gathered. He opened his arms in a transatlantic embrace. If he had not occupied Britain's premiership, who else could have courted the U.S. with a hundredth part of his warmth and conviction?

Many of his compatriots, however, were still grudging. Few British people felt minded to thank the Americans for belatedly entering the war not from choice or principle, but because they were obliged to.

Churchill remained exultant. 'Consider tide turned,' he reported. 'The accession of the United States makes amends for all, and with time and patience will give certain victory.'

He had achieved a personal triumph such as no other Briton could have matched. He told the King that after many months of walking out, Britain and America were at last married.

Admittedly, henceforward Britain would be junior partner in the Atlantic alliance, but Churchill had imposed his greatness on the American people, in a fashion that would do much service to his country in the years ahead.

A sexual adventuress in the family

Pamela was married to Churchill's son Randolph when she had an affair with U.S. envoy Harriman

The daughter-in-law: Pamela was married to Churchill's son Randolph when she had an affair

Churchill's family were both a help and a hindrance to his war work. His daughter-in-law Pamela, married to his son Randolph, had a notable affair with the highly influential U.S. envoy Averell Harriman. It can have done no harm to Anglo-American relations.

The sexually adventurous Pamela - once described as 'a world expert on rich men's bedroom ceilings' - went on to marry Harriman after divorcing Randolph.

The break-up of his son's marriage was a sadness for the prime minister, who took to reading The Duke's Children, the Anthony Trollope novel which describes a Victorian grandee's embarrassments with his offspring.

Churchill once observed of his son: 'I love Randolph, but I don't like him.'

Astonishingly, he allowed him to be present at discussions about great matters and expected ministers, generals and advisers around him to be as indulgent to his son as he was.

Following a Cabinet meeting at Downing Street one day, Randolph joined a debate about the poor performance of the Army, and shouted: 'Father, the trouble is your soldiers won't fight.'

What he said was, on this occasion, absolutely right, but the manner of his intervention was typically over-the-top and embarrassing for all those who witnessed it.

Rations? No, Winston was having a whale of a time

As Britain's merchant fleet suffered relentless attrition in the Atlantic, food minister Lord Woolton briefed the Cabinet on the necessity to ration canned goods.

Churchill murmured in sorrowful jest: 'I shall never see another sardine!'

In reality, he suffered less than any other citizen from the exigencies of war, and professed embarrassment that he had never lived so luxuriously in his life.

No ministerial colleague enjoyed his privileges in matters of diet and comfort. Eden, as Foreign Secretary, waxed lyrical about being offered a slice of cold ham at a Buckingham Palace luncheon, and oranges at the Brazilian embassy.

The PM set his sights higher. The housekeepers at Downing Street and Chequers were issued with unlimited supplies of diplomatic food coupons for official entertaining.

Some of Churchill's guests recoiled from his selfindulgence at a time when the rest of the country was enduring whale steaks.

One night when Churchill took a party to the Savoy, the Canadian PM Mackenzie King was disgusted that his host insisted on ordering both fish and meat, in defiance of rationing regulations.

The ascetic Mr King found it 'disgraceful that Winston should behave like this'.

But Churchill's wit and expansive style helped to sustain the spirit of his colleagues. At a vexed Defence Committee meeting to discuss supplies for Russia, he issued Cuban cigars, recently arrived as a gift from Havana.

'It may well be that these each contain some deadly poison,' he observed complacently as those so inclined struck matches.

'It may well be that within days I shall follow sadly the long line of your coffins up the aisle of Westminster Abbey - reviled by the populace as the man who has out-borgia-ed Borgia!'


The Blitz was our finest hour but we must face up to the social injustices of 1940s Britain and the challenges of today

One night in March 1941, my aunt and her fiancé were among scores of couples at London's smart Café de Paris restaurant, dancing to 'Snakehips' Johnson and his West Indian orchestra.

Just before the cabaret - 'The Kentucky Derby by Ten Beautiful Girls' - two Luftwaffe bombs fell through the ceiling. Thirty diners and 'Snakehips' himself were killed, a further 80 injured.

Officers on leave found themselves carrying out the bodies of their dead girlfriends.

My aunt and her fiancé were dragged from the wreckage suffering shock, and went home to sleep for an unbroken 24 hours.

Bombed out: A family walk the streets with their few remaining possessions

Bombed out: A family walk the streets with their few remaining possessions - but amid today's very different challenges, we do not need to revive the Blitz spirit

Theirs was a typical London wartime experience. Some would say they displayed characteristic 'Blitz spirit' by dancing again the following Saturday night.

My aunt was a cynic, however.

She said that her own most vivid memory of the Café de Paris was that amid the carnage after the bombing, looters scrambled among the rescuers, tearing open handbags and pulling rings off the fingers of the dead and injured.

There was also cynicism in London's East End about the class-riddled press coverage which followed the restaurant blast: 'Beautiful girls in ball gowns lacerated… handsome young men in uniform cut down far from the battlefield.'

Cockneys pointed out bitterly that a local dance hall was hit the same night, with 200 casualties, but newspapers ignored the story because no debutantes were present.

This week saw widespread commemorations of the 70th anniversary of the start of the Blitz on London and other British cities, including a service at St Paul's Cathedral attended by some survivors.

The tone was inevitably sentimental and nostalgic: 'Finest hour… courage of ordinary Londoners… defeat of the Nazis' onslaught on innocent civilians'.

In the public response, though, I detected a hint of anniversary fatigue.

Former RAF personnel attend a service of remembrance at St Paul's Cathedral, on the 70th anniversary of the day the first German bombs fell on London during World War II.

Proud: Former RAF personnel attend a service of remembrance at St Paul's Cathedral, on the 70th anniversary of the day the first German bombs fell on London during World War II. But there were plenty of heroes as well as villains during the Blitz

More and more people, especially under 40, say: 'How long do we have to go on wallowing in the war? Isn't it time we got on with our own lives in the 21st century?'

My aunt, a tough egg, would have agreed with them. I myself, born after the war, would answer those questions in several ways.

It is surely right that old people should be able to recall a remarkable time, and pay tribute to friends who died.

Commemorations, fly-pasts and anniversary TV programmes help to make a new generation, pretty ignorant of history, learn a little.

However, I resist sentimentality. After all this time, it does nobody any good to exploit wartime anniversaries for an orgy of nostalgia. If we are going to discuss the Blitz, let us do so honestly, with the objectivity of another century.

Nobody should succumb to the delusion that people of those days were different from or better than our own young generation.

The wartime British were the usual mixture of the good, the bad and the ugly. Above, I mentioned looters at the Café de Paris.

While there were indeed heroes in 1940, there were also scoundrels, because there always are.

Flashback: Crowds gather on The Mall to watch a fly-past of World War II aircraft as part of the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of VE Day in London, July 10, 2005

Try this example: among stars of the Blitz were the extraordinarily brave men who learned by trial and error to deal with unexploded bombs.

One was a pre-war drifter from Cornwall named Bob Davies.

He acquired some engineering experience during travels around the world, which he parleyed into an emergency commission in the Royal Engineers.

Early one morning in September 1940, Davies led a bomb disposal squad sent to address a 1,000kg bomb buried deep in the road in front of St Paul's Cathedral.

They quickly found themselves in difficulties when overcome by gas from a fractured main, which caused them to be briefly hospitalised.

Resuming work, they dug all night, until a spark ignited gas from another main, burning three men. Deeper and deeper they dug, until, almost 80 hours after the bomb fell, Davies's squad reached it, 28 ft into the London clay.

After many difficulties, a heavy cable was attached.

The monster was dragged to the surface, lashed to a cradle on a truck and driven through the streets of London to Hackney Marshes, where it was detonated by Davies. The explosion blew a crater 100ft wide.

A flood of publicity fell upon Davies. The Daily Mail used the opportunity to applaud the courage of the UXB squads: 'These most gallant - and most matter of fact - men of the RE are many a time running a race with death.'

A headline asserted: 'A story that must win a man a VC.' Davies and the sapper who found the St Paul's bomb were indeed awarded the George Cross.

Only in May 1942 did an unhappy sequel take place. Davies was court-martialled on almost 30 charges, involving large-scale and systematic theft throughout his time in charge of his bomb disposal squad.

He had also exploited his role to extract cash payments from some of those whose premises he saved from bombs, compounded by later passing dud cheques.

More embarrassments followed. It emerged that the St Paul's bomb did not contain a delay fuse, so that it was much less dangerous than had been claimed by the media.

Davies did not himself drive it out to Hackney.

He served two years' imprisonment, being released in 1944.

The perils of UXB work were utterly real, and Davies himself did some brave and useful things.

Rare colour film of the bomb damage inflicted on London during World War II

Brave: Rare colour film of the bomb damage inflicted on London during the war

But a lesson of his story is that there were plenty of villains as well as heroes in the war, and some men were a tangle of both.

Having told an ugly story, we should balance it by emphasising that Britain's 1940-41 'Blitz spirit' was very real, and much annoyed the Nazis.

Before the war they, as well as many British, French and American politicians and airmen, believed that attacks on cities would cause national panic, a collapse of morale and surrender.

Merely by keeping going through night after night of Luftwaffe bombing between September 1940 and May 1941, the British people frustrated Hitler and contributed to ultimate victory.

Human beings have an amazing adaptability to circumstances, however awful.

There were plenty of villains as well as heroes in the war, and some men were a tangle of both

Courting couples shocked moralists by using little household air raid shelters for purposes for which they were not intended.

Finsbury warden Barbara Nixon described seeing a loving twosome emerge one evening, the girl getting anxious as anti-aircraft guns started firing.

She said: 'I can't stop now, Tom, really. I must get down to the shelter. Mum will be worrying. But I'll see you tomorrow, same time, same sandbag.'

A strand of traditional British silliness helped the afflicted. A London vicar asked a fellow occupant of his basement shelter whether she prayed when she heard a bomb falling. 'Yes', she answered.

'I pray, Oh God! Don't let it fall here.' The vicar said: 'But it's a bit rough on other people, if your prayer is granted and the thing drops, not on you, but on them.'

The woman answered: 'I can't help that. They must say their prayers and push it off further.'

While Londoners' staunchness was real enough, most suffered misery and squalor.

Bernard Kops, a small boy in 1940 who later became a novelist, wrote: 'Some people… recall a poetic dream about the Blitz. They talk about those days as if they were a time of a true communal spirit.

Enlarge VE Day celebrations after the war in London

VE Day, 1945: Crowds gather to celebrate in Piccadilly Circus

'Not to me. It was the beginning of an era of utter terror, of fear and horror. I stopped being a child and came face-to-face with the new reality of the world.'

'Human casualties were quieter than I had expected,' wrote Barbara Nixon, who was an actress in 'civvy street'.

'Only twice did I hear really terrifying screaming, apart from hysteria; one night a [railway] signalman had his legs blown off and while he was still conscious his box burst into flames; it was utterly impossible for anyone to reach him and it seemed an age before his ghastly, paralysing screams subsided.

'Usually, however, casualties, even those who were badly hurt or trapped, were too stunned to make much noise.

'Animals, on the other hand, made a dreadful clamour. One of the most unnerving nights of the first three months was when a cattle market was hit, and the beasts bellowed and shrieked for three hours; a locomotive had been overturned at the same time and its steam whistle released.

'The high-pitched monotonous tone, coupled with the distant roaring of the bullocks, was maddening.'

Air raid shelters in old buildings swarmed with lice and bugs. In the big subterranean shelters of the inner cities, drunken men and women often lapsed into quarrels and fights.

Amid today's very different challenges, we do not need to revive the Blitz spirit. A dose of a more modern spirit would be more useful, to enable Britain to prosper in the 21st century

There was inescapable filth where there were no lavatories. Most people agreed that the oldest and youngest suffered most.

Barbara Nixon again: 'Neither had any idea what it was all about; they had never heard of Poland… and Fascism was, at most, a matter of that wicked beast Hitler who was trying to blow us up, or murder us all in our beds.'

Ernie Pyle, the great American correspondent, wrote from London in January 1941: 'It was the old people who seemed so tragic. Think of yourself at 70 or 80, full of pain and of the dim memories of a lifetime that has probably all been bleak.

'And then think of yourself now, travelling at dusk every night to a subway station, wrapping your ragged overcoat about your old shoulders and sitting on a wooden bench with your back against a curved street wall.

'Sitting there all night, in nodding and fitful sleep. Think of that as your destiny - every night, every night from now on.'

Some 43,000 people died in Britain's Blitz. Later in the war, air forces became even more terrifyingly proficient at dealing death and destruction.

The Luftwaffe wiped out 40,000 victims in Stalingrad in the autumn of 1942.

Allied bombs - what airmen now call 'collateral damage' - killed 70,000 French people in the course of attacking industrial and German military targets in France.

More Dutch and French people were killed by allied bombing of German V-weapon sites in Holland and France than Hitler's flying-bombs and rocket accounted for in England.

And, of course, allied bombing of Germany and Japan delivered a terrible retribution against the war's aggressors. At least 300,000 German civilians perished.

In Tokyo, 100,000 people died in a single firebombing raid on March 9, 1945 - as many as were killed by the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

As for the Blitz on Britain, it has become a modern cliché for people to assert gloomily: 'Well, of course, nobody nowadays would put up with it.'

Nonsense. If such terrible things came upon us again, I believe the nation would respond just as well it did 70 years ago.

There was no panic after the 7/7 London terrorist bombings five years ago, though, of course, there was much distress.

As a peacetime society, we have become absurdly risk-averse.

Those who lived through the Blitz would gawp in disbelief at today's health and safety rules. But if new perils befall us, sceptics would be surprised how robustly most people would behave.

I remember a Royal Navy frigate captain, during the air attacks on San Carlos in the Falklands War, saying: 'Look at those kids out there on the upper deck manning Bofors guns.

'Some of them are only 17, but they do brilliantly well. In England, they'd all be soccer hooligans.'

I answered him: 'Maybe - but the young always respond amazingly well to the challenges of war.'

Any company commander in Afghanistan would testify today that his boys, many of them from deprived and even depraved backgrounds here at home, do some wonderful things on the battlefield.

Let nobody glorify the Blitz experience, or any other aspect of World War II, as a national epic we should regret having missed.

To be sure, there was a remarkable exhilaration about British life in 1940. But reading any personal account of the period banishes nostalgia.

Our own lives are incomparably better and more comfortable than were our grandparents, even before bombing started. Britain 70 years ago was in thrall to class distinctions.

The so-called ruling class often behaved appallingly - think of how many dukes were eager to make peace with Hitler. The poor were terribly poor.

Much of the wartime British Army fought with false teeth. It required years of decent rations to compensate many soldiers for childhood malnutrition, a legacy of the Depression, before they were fit to fight anyone.

You might say: yes, but in those days there was more religion, and higher moral standards. Even if that is true, it seems to me at least as important that today's British people enjoy freedoms of choice which were utterly denied to them in 1940.

It is right that we should remember the Blitz this week, a great British historical event that our children should know about.

But sensible old people who lived through it do not want us to applaud them as heroes and heroines.

They know they were hapless victims of an ordeal, who under Churchill's magical leadership endured things which 'the experts' had thought would finish off the country.

Amid today's very different challenges, we do not need to revive the Blitz spirit.

A dose of a more modern spirit would be more useful, to enable Britain to prosper in the 21st century.

Let those who choose to do so keep remembering the war, in which the country achieved some remarkable things.

But for all the failures and disappointments of modern Britain, I am hugely grateful to live now, and not then.




He caroused with West End call girls and proposed to THREE society beauties - who turned him down. A startling portrait of our wartime PM in his youth


Sir Winston Churchill pictured in 1895 when he was in the 4th Queen's Own Hussars. A new book shows that the leader as a young man was a powerful romantic and chased some of society's most noted beauties

Sir Winston Churchill pictured in 1895 when he was in the 4th Queen's Own Hussars. A new book shows that the leader as a young man was a powerful romantic and chased some of society's most noted beauties

For a time, it seemed the whole of London was enraptured with Ethel Barrymore — and none more so than a certain young Tory MP.

Indeed, he’d tumbled into love with the American actress from the very moment she made her entrance on stage, wearing one of her signature low-cut bodices.

There was no doubt about it, he thought: at last he’d found the future Mrs Winston Churchill! All that remained was for him to win her — which he set out to do with all the focus and determination of an army general.

When the stunning Ethel returned to the London stage a couple of years later, in 1903, young Winston besieged her every day with armfuls of flowers.

And each night, he’d go to supper at Claridge’s — because she always went there after the curtain came down — and insist on having dinner with her.

As a method of wooing his goddess, it lacked a certain finesse. But Winston Churchill didn’t care: he was madly in love and determined to wear down the American star’s defences.

Today, it’s almost impossible to imagine the grave and portly leader of wartime Britain as a wildly romantic young man. Indeed, biographers have often portrayed him as an awkward youth, uncomfortable around women and half-hearted in his rare flirtations.

Nothing, as I discovered when I researched his early years, could be further from the truth. Far from being shy or inexperienced, he was just 19 when he became an enthusiastic admirer of London’s music-hall beauties — then a euphemism for ladies of easy virtue.

At the Empire Theatre in the West End, for instance, they’d parade in the area behind the dress circle, which was essentially a pick-up joint.

When the theatre management tried to hide the so-called ‘Empire Promenade’ behind canvas screens, the patrons rioted — egged on by Churchill himself. Standing up to address the mob, he launched a rousing tribute to the charms of the assembled women.

‘Where does the Englishman in London always find a welcome?’ he asked his fellow revellers. ‘Who is always there to greet him with a smile and join him in a drink? Who is ever faithful, ever true? The Ladies of the Empire Promenade!’

Churchill chased after Pamela Plowden, the daughter of a colonial officer, as well as stage siren Ethel Barrymore

Churchill chased after Pamela Plowden, the daughter of a colonial officer, as well as stage siren Ethel Barrymore

Churchill chased after Pamela Plowden (left), the daughter of a colonial officer, as well as stage siren Ethel Barrymore (right)

(In middle age, Churchill wryly remarked: ‘In these somewhat unvirginal surroundings, I made my maiden speech.)

For an upper-class young man to reveal so publicly that he had personal knowledge of these women was utterly scandalous. Not surprisingly, the management had him thrown out.

By his mid-20s, Winston had become quite the young blade about town. Everywhere he went, he wore a glossy top hat, starched wing collar and frock coat.

His accessories included a walking stick and watch chain. His taste for fine clothing extended even to his choice of underclothes, which were made from silk.

‘It is essential to my well-being,’ he once said in defence of this expensive habit.

To Winston, fine cigars and champagne were also ‘essential’. ‘There has never been a day in my life when I could not order a bottle of champagne for myself and offer another to a friend,’ he insisted.

Sir Winston Churchill in 1904, when he became Conservative MP for Oldham in 1900. He changed his allegiance to the Liberals in 1906

Sir Winston Churchill in 1904, when he became Conservative MP for Oldham in 1900. His status as a politician failed to sway Ethel Barrymore

And perhaps for a lady of loose morals, too.

Winston’s friend Harry Primrose, the son of former Prime Minister Lord Rosebery, liked to tell the story of how the two of them had once taken out a pair of ‘Gaiety girls’. At the end of the night, he claimed, they’d each gone home with one of the women.

Meeting Winston’s date a short time afterwards, Harry asked how the rest of the night had gone. The girl replied that he’d done nothing but talk ‘into the small hours on the subject of himself’.

There was plenty to talk about. An MP by the age of 26, Winston had already lived through the adventures of a storybook character: fighting with the Bengal Lancers on the Indian frontier; scouting for rebels in Cuba; taking part in a cavalry charge in Egypt — and, most dramatic of all — surviving capture by the Boers in South Africa, and then making his escape across hundreds of miles of unfriendly territory.

Not only that, he’d already written five books. As one newspaper editor remarked, young Churchill’s dashing style brought to mind ‘the clatter of hoofs in the moonlight, the clash of swords on the turnpike road’.

Indeed, with his love of risk and dramatic gestures, he seemed the very embodiment of a Byronic hero — and it was no accident that he could quote acres of the poet’s verse by heart.

When it came to the opposite sex, though, he had a few distinct disadvantages. For a start, his pale, round face with its somewhat bulging eyes was no match for the dark, rugged good looks of a conventional Byronic hero.

Nor was he wealthy. Despite being a first cousin of the immensely rich Duke of Marlborough — who allowed Churchill to come and go at the family seat Blenheim Palace as he pleased — he’d inherited relatively little himself.

So it was, perhaps, unfortunate that his first great love was not only an acclaimed society beauty but sufficiently poor to know that she needed to marry a wealthy man.

He’d met Pamela Plowden, the daughter of a colonial official, when he was a cavalry officer in India.

They’d made polite conversation at parties, dined at her home and once even enjoyed an elephant ride together.

Stoic: A more familiar image of Sir Winston making a broadcast at No 10 Downing Street

Stoic: A more familiar image of Sir Winston making a broadcast at No 10 Downing Street

But it was only a year and a half later, when both were back in Britain, that Winston realised he was passionately in love.

By that time, however, he was by no means the only man to have been entranced by Pamela’s seductive grey eyes, porcelain complexion and glossy dark hair.

The centre of attention at every ball, she managed her flirtations so successfully that one of her society friends called her ‘the most accomplished plate-spinner’ of her day.

Even accomplished flirts, however, may occasionally be won with enough persistence and devotion.

To this end, not only did Winston bombard her with long love letters for two years, but he even had the manuscript of his only novel — Savrola — delivered to her.

When this tactic failed to win her over, he raised the stakes. ‘Marry me,’ he wrote a few months later, ‘and I will conquer the world and lay it at your feet’.

Sir Winston Churchill as a child in 1880 or 1881. An extraordinary life as a soldier, reporter, MP and wartime leader awaited

Sir Winston Churchill as a child in 1880 or 1881. An extraordinary life as a soldier, reporter, MP and wartime leader awaited

It was an extravagant promise and Pamela didn’t believe a word of it. But she didn’t dismiss him entirely, either, so when he sailed off to fight in the Boer War, it was with three different portraits of her tucked into his pocket.

When he was imprisoned by the Boers in late 1899, he wrote her a brave, jaunty note: ‘Among new and vivid scenes, I think often of you.’

His plight couldn’t help but move her. And when Winston’s mother gave Pamela the news that he’d escaped from prison and was safe, she responded with a two-word telegram: ‘Thank God.’

Returning home a hero, he was emboldened to try his luck again. His chance came when both were invited by the Countess of Warwick to spend a weekend at her castle.

There, on a fine October day in 1900, just after he became an MP, he took Pamela punting on the Avon and once again popped the question.

Again, she turned him down. But it took more than that to deter Winston. Still convinced that she was ‘the only woman I could ever live happily with’, he embarked that December on a lecture tour of Canada and the United States.

He planned to fill his coffers and make himself a richer marriage prospect.

‘There is that between us,’ he wrote to her confidently, ‘which if it should grow no stronger, will last for ever.’

The only thing that grew stronger, however, was his bank balance — by nearly £8,000.

When Winston arrived in the Canadian province of Ottawa, he found, quite by chance, Pamela paying a visit to her friend Lady Minto, wife of the governor general of Ottawa. He asked her to marry him once more — sadly the answer was still no.

Back in London, they had a final stormy parting. For months afterwards, whenever they bumped into each other socially, angry sparks flew.

At one ball, Winston strode up to her and demanded to know if she had ‘no pride’, because he’d heard she was going about saying he’d treated her badly.

When they met again at a party, he stretched out his hand — but she refused to take it, then swept past him as if he didn’t exist.

Finally, in 1902, she made a choice from her many admirers and married the Earl of Lytton, leaving Winston heartbroken.

A woman worth conquering the world for: Clementine Churchill whispers into the ear of her husband

A woman worth conquering the world for: Clementine Churchill whispers into the ear of her husband

Not so heartbroken as to keep him from the charms of the American actress Ethel Barrymore. Having seen her on stage during her first visit to Britain, by 1903, he once again believed himself to be deeply in love.

Another admirer described her as, ‘a pretty creature, with dangerously expressive eyes, luxuriant dark hair, and highly captivating manner.’

Like Pamela before her, Ethel was elusive, darting from one engagement to the next in a busy social whirl. Somehow, Winston could never quite pin her down — though he exchanged affectionate letters with her after she returned to New York.

The following year, in 1904, she was back with a new play called Cynthia — and, as Ethel confirmed in old age, Winston at last dared to propose.

Although she claimed to have been much attracted to him, she was too preoccupied with the play to give him a firm answer.

Then fate intervened: the critics lambasted the play, saying that even Ethel’s charm couldn’t compensate for its weak plot and terrible dialogue.

The production closed a fortnight later and humiliated, she fled back to America.

Whatever interest she’d had in Winston quickly faded. By the time she turned up in London again, a year had gone by and she was already in love with another man.

‘I was so in love with her,’ Winston recalled wistfully, half a century later. ‘And she wouldn’t pay any attention to me at all.’

As he approached his 30th birthday, he was still searching for a wife. And once again, he set his sights on a woman who seemed beyond his reach.

Churchill was an accomplished speaker and was famous for his 'We Shall Fight on the Beaches' address to Parliament. He made a less salubrious speech in defence of ladies of easy virtue as a youngster

Churchill was an accomplished speaker and was famous for his 'We Shall Fight on the Beaches' address to Parliament. He made a less salubrious speech in defence of ladies of easy virtue as a youngster

Muriel Wilson was an heiress who’d already turned down some of the most handsome and best-connected men in the kingdom. Now that she was nearing 30 herself, Winston dared to hope she would consider a future with him.

With her delicate mouth, large eyes, and rich mass of wavy dark hair, Muriel was dubbed ‘Great Britain’s most beautiful girl’ by the American press.

She was also used to living like a princess at her family’s London mansion near Buckingham Palace.

There were also regular breaks at a sprawling villa in the south of France and the Wilsons’ country house in Yorkshire.

Fluent in French and socially popular, she seemed to do everything well. ‘She skates, cycles, and dances to perfection,’ gushed one society magazine.

She even had a career of sorts, posing in amateur historical pageants as allegorical figures such as Peace, War and the Muse of History. 

By the autumn of 1904, Winston firmly believed their friendship was ripening into something more serious — but, as usual, he’d misread the signals. His proposal was turned down flat.

In a letter written in the heat of his distress, he told Muriel that he was willing to wait for her. ‘Perhaps I shall improve with waiting,’ he wrote, sounding desperate. ‘Why shouldn’t you care about me someday?’

Muriel seems to have been touched, but not enough to change her mind. In any case, politics didn’t interest her that much and Winston’s promotion to under-secretary to the Colonial Office failed to render him any more desirable.

As time passed, the fact that he stubbornly refused to give up on her became a subject of considerable gossip.

Some assumed that he was interested in her only because she was rich — but Winston had never been a fortune-hunter. 

In September 1906, he persuaded her to spend a week with him in Venice, after which they drove on to Tuscany together.

The trip was full of romantic ingredients — bright vistas and sleepy villages, wine and sunsets — but no actual romance.

Finally, even Winston had to concede that they were doomed to remain friends.

His quest for a great beauty — who could be his muse, companion and wife — had once again come to a dead end. It wasn’t till March 1908 that he found her at last.

He arrived late for a dinner party, thrown by society hostess Lady St Helier, and found himself sitting next to 22-year-old Clementine Hozier.

Sir Winston and Clementine leave London Airport after he returned from a Mediterranean cruise. He died in 1965. She died in 1977

Sir Winston and Clementine leave London Airport after he returned from a Mediterranean cruise. He died in 1965. She died in 1977

Though she was the grand-daughter of a lord, she wasn’t rich and theatrical like Muriel, or famous like Ethel. But she did have that air of mystery that Winston liked, and there was a touch of the exotic in her almond-eyed beauty.

For the rest of that evening, he paid Clemmie such marked attention that everyone commented on it.

Afterwards, matters moved swiftly: she received an invitation to dine with him and his mother and he started writing her letters.

Just five months after their first meeting, he laid the ground for his fourth proposal by having her invited down to Blenheim Palace.

There, in the late afternoon of August 11, he took her for a walk in the extensive grounds.

When a sudden shower sent them running for cover to an ornamental Greek temple, he decided to risk yet another rebuff by asking Clemmie to be his wife. This time, to his delight, the answer was an unqualified yes.

A few days later, Clemmie wrote to him in a letter, ‘I wonder how I have lived 23 years without you.’

Barely able to believe his good fortune — and anxious that nothing should go wrong —  Winston arranged for them to be married just a month later. Here, at last, was a woman worth conquering the world for.

Operation unthinkable: How Churchill wanted to recruit defeated Nazi troops and drive Russia out of Eastern Europe

Next week sees the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II. One man towered above all others at this perilous time  -  Winston Churchill.

In a major two-week series, war historian Max Hastings casts new light on him.

Here, in part nine, he tells how Churchill became a Cold War prophet in foreseeing the menace of the Soviet Union...

Ahead of the game: Winston Churchill foresaw the menace of the Soviet Union and began making plans to go to war with Russia

Ahead of the game: Winston Churchill foresaw the menace of the Soviet Union and began making plans to go to war with Russia

When Winston Churchill learned in the spring of 1945 that the Americans were going to halt their advance on Berlin from the west and leave Hitler's capital to the mercies of the Red Army of the Soviet Union, he was furious.

The United States government had made an absolute commitment not to let post-war Europe separate out into distinct areas of political influence. But now this was precisely what was being allowed to happen.

Russian behaviour was worsening by the day as Stalin's all-conquering men rolled up the countries in the east and made them satellites of Moscow, in defiance of agreements made by the heads of state at the Yalta conference only weeks earlier.

Keep on going eastwards was Churchill's advice to the Allied armies, until the Russians showed some willingness to keep their side of the bargain about the future shape of Europe.

Meanwhile, Stalin was in paranoid mood, fearful that the West was planning to make its own deal with the Germans, cut him out and possibly even turn on him.

He was deeply suspicious of what Churchill was up to. 'That man is capable of anything,' he told his army commander, Marshal Zhukov.

But Churchill wasn't up to anything, because the Americans wouldn't let him. They showed no interest in diplomatic brinkmanship with the Kremlin, despite the vital issues for the future of the world that were at stake. Washington wanted no confrontation with Moscow.

Churchill found it hard coming to terms with the era that was dawning. Back in 1941, he had assumed that when the war ended the United States and the British Empire would together form the most powerful armed and economic bloc the world had ever seen. The Soviet Union would be struggling. 'They will need our aid for reconstruction far more than we shall need theirs,' he said then.

By 1945, the Soviets were vastly stronger, and the British much weaker, than he had expected. As for the U.S. commitment to Anglo-American interests, in Europe or anywhere else, this was more tenuous than it had ever been.

Menace: Soviet leader Josef Stalin at the Potsdam conference where he met Truman and Churchill to make arrangements for post-war Europe in 1945

Menace: Soviet leader Josef Stalin at the Potsdam conference where he met Truman and Churchill to make arrangements for post-war Europe in 1945

In the cold light of day, the prime minister understood all this. As Russian forces were allowed to proceed to their agreed halting point on the River Elbe, he summed up his fears in a letter to his Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden.

'Terrible things have happened. A tide of Russian domination is sweeping forward . . . After it is over, the territories under Russian control will include the Baltic provinces, all of eastern Germany, all Czechoslovakia, a large part of Austria, the whole of Yugoslavia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria.

'This constitutes one of the most melancholy events in the history of Europe and one to which there has been no parallel. It is to an early and speedy showdown and settlement with Russia that we must now turn our hopes.'

It was a diplomatic showdown he was referring to at this point. He wanted the Americans and the British to hang tough in deliberations with Moscow.

But the difficulty was that the Allies were in an uncharted new world. To the vast shock of his countrymen, who had been kept in the dark about how ill he was, President Roosevelt died on April 12.

Into the shoes of this towering figure stepped vice-president Harry Truman.

Victory in Europe: Winston Churchill waving to crowds gathered in Whitehall on VE Day

Victory in Europe: Winston Churchill waving to crowds gathered in Whitehall on VE Day

In the first weeks of the new President's tenure, there were indications that he was ready to deal much more toughly with the Russians than had Roosevelt in his last months. But he was no more willing than his predecessor to risk an armed clash with the Soviet Union for the sake of the overrun Poland or indeed any other European nation.

Washington believed that, with the U.S. army and the Red Army facing each other on the banks of the Elbe, there was no virtue in empty posturing.

Nor did Churchill's combativeness towards Moscow find much resonance among his own people. For four years the British had embraced the Russians as heroes and comrades-in-arms, ignorant of the absence of reciprocal enthusiasm.

Beyond a few score men and women at the summit of the British war machine, little was known of the perfidy and savagery of the Soviets as they smashed their way through Eastern Europe.

Jubilant: Londoners dancing in Piccadilly Circus on VE Day, May 8 1945 - at 3pm Churchill had broadcast to the nation to say the war with Germany was over

Jubilant: Londoners dancing in Piccadilly Circus on after Churchill had broadcast to the nation to say the war with Germany was over

VE-Day was proclaimed on May 8, 1945. At 3pm the prime minister broadcast to the British people, telling them the Germans had signed an act of unconditional surrender, and 'the German war is therefore at an end'.

He recalled Britain's lonely struggle, and the gradual accession of great allies: 'Finally almost the whole world was combined against the evil-doers, who are now prostrate before us. We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing; but let us not forget for a moment the toil and efforts that lie ahead.'

Japan had still to be beaten. 'We must now devote all our strength and resources to the completion of our task, both at home and abroad. Advance, Britannia! Long live the cause of freedom! God save the King.'

From a balcony in Whitehall that evening, he addressed a vast, cheering crowd, who sang Land Of Hope And Glory and For He's A Jolly Good Fellow. But back in his rooms, all he could talk about was his dismay at Soviet barbarism in the east.

While the world celebrated, he spent the first days of peace plunged in deepest gloom about the fate of Poland.

At Downing Street, he invited the Soviet ambassador, Feodor Gusev, to lunch and gave him a dressing down.

The Russian recorded how Churchill 'roared' as he listed a catalogue of grievances about Poland, about communist forces trying to seize Trieste and British representatives being barred from Prague, Vienna and Berlin.

Truman agreed that urgent talks were needed. Yet what if talking to Stalin got nowhere? Was there anything the Western Allies could do? Churchill thought there was. They could go to war again.

Within days of Germany's surrender, he had astounded his chiefs of staff by inquiring whether Anglo-American forces might launch an offensive to drive back the Soviets. He requested the military planners to consider means to 'impose upon Russia the will of the United States and British Empire' to secure 'a square deal for Poland'.

They were told to assume the full support of British and American public opinion and that they would be able 'to count on the use of German manpower and what remains of German industrial capacity'.

In other words, the beaten Germans would be mobilised on the West's side. There was even a target date for such an assault  -  July 1, 1945.

The Foreign Office  -  though not the Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden himself  -  recoiled in horror from Churchill's bellicosity, as did the chief of the Army, Sir Alan Brooke. 'Winston gives me the feeling of already longing for another war!' he noted in his diary.

(Indeed at the Potsdam conference in July 1945, Churchill's inside knowledge that the Americans had just completed the first successful atomic bomb test emboldened the PM in his crusade to bring Stalin to heel. Pushing his chin out and scowling, he told Sir Alan: 'We can tell them that if they insist on doing this or that, well we can just blot out Moscow, then Stalingrad, then Kiev and so on.')

Nonetheless, the British Army high command faithfully executed Churchill's wishes by examining scenarios for military action against the Russians. It required feats of imagination unprecedented even among the many wild ideas they'd had to consider during his war premiership.

Needless to say, given the acute sensitivity of their draft proposal for what was termed Operation Unthinkable, security was at a premium. Needless to say, too, Stalin learned very quickly what was going on in the British camp.

One of the many spies he had in Whitehall swiftly conveyed to Moscow tidings of an instruction that had gone out from London to Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, the senior British commander in Germany, urging him to stockpile captured German weapons for possible future use.

But, the Kremlin apart, Churchill's promptings remained a state secret for more than half-a-century until confirmed in papers released by the National Archive in 1998.

In the report the planners drew up for the PM, they were quick with their reservations, pointing out that the Russians could resort to the same tactics they had employed with such success against the Germans, giving ground amid the infinite spaces of the Soviet Union.

Churchill with Roosevelt who died in April 1945 - the British PM hoped his successor Truman would deal more toughly with the Russians but he was no more willing to risk an armed conflict than Roosevelt

Churchill with Roosevelt who died in April 1945 - the British PM hoped his successor Truman would deal more toughly with the Russians but he was no more willing to risk an armed conflict than Roosevelt

'There is virtually no limit to the distance it would be necessary for the Allies to penetrate into Russia in order to render further resistance impossible.'

The planners estimated that 47 Allied divisions would be needed for an offensive, 14 of them tank divisions. A further 40 divisions would have to be kept in reserve for defensive or occupation tasks. Against this, the report said, the Russians could muster twice as many men and tanks.

It concluded that these odds 'clearly render the launching of an offensive a hazardous undertaking. If we are to embark on war with Russia, we must be prepared to commit to a total war, which will be both long and costly'.

On the question of re-arming and putting the defeated German army back in the field, the planners were concerned that veterans who had already fought in the bitter battles on the Eastern Front might be reluctant to repeat the experience.

The chiefs of staff were never under any delusions about the impracticability of an offensive against the Russians to liberate Poland. Brooke wrote in his diary that 'the idea is of course fantastic and the chances of success quite impossible. There is no doubt that from now onwards Russia is all-powerful in Europe'.

All the evidence suggested that Operation Unthinkable was just that  -  unthinkable.

Potsdam: President Truman (centre) with Josef Stalin and Clement Attlee who participated in the conference with Churchill

Potsdam: President Truman (centre) with Josef Stalin and Clement Attlee who participated in the conference with Churchill

An outline plan went to the PM on June 8, along with the written opinion of the chiefs that 'once hostilities began. ..we should be committed to a protracted war against heavy odds'. There would be no hope of defeating the Russians without 'a large proportion of the vast resources of the United States'.

What, then, if the Americans didn't stay the course? Churchill was alarmed. If the Americans withdrew from such a fight, Britain would be left horribly exposed, since the Russians had the power to advance to the North Sea and the Atlantic. It would be 1940 all over again.

'Pray have a study made,' he asked in a note, 'of how then we could defend our island, assuming that France and the Low Countries were powerless to resist the Russian advance to the sea.'

But then it was as if he came to his senses because he added that the codeword 'Unthinkable' should be retained, 'so that the staffs will realise that this remains a precautionary study of what, I hope, is still a highly improbable event.'

Before sending the note, he took his red pen and altered the last three words from 'highly improbable event' to 'purely hypothetical contingency'.

The chiefs responded to his inquiries about what would happen in the event of a Soviet advance to the Channel. Russian naval strength, they concluded, was too limited to render an early amphibious invasion of Britain likely. They ruled out a Soviet airborne assault.

It seemed more likely, they suggested, that Moscow would resort to intensive rocket bombardment, on a scale more destructive than that of the German V1s and V2s. To defend against such a threat, they that estimated a massive force of 230 squadrons of fighters and 300 squadrons of bombers would be necessary.

A few days later, the 'Unthinkable' file was closed. A cable had arrived from President Truman which made it clear there was not the slightest possibility that the Americans would lead an attempt to drive the Russians from Poland by force, or even threaten Moscow that they might do so.

The U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Japanese town Nagasaki, on August 9, 1945 - the month before Churchill got inside knowledge at Potsdam that they had completed a successful test of the bomb emboldening him to bring Stalin to heel

The U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Japanese town Nagasaki, on August 9, 1945 - the month before Churchill got inside knowledge at Potsdam that they had completed a successful test of the bomb emboldening him to bring Stalin to heel

Ultimately, Churchill knew in his heart that the tyranny established by the Red Army could not be undone either through diplomacy or by force of arms. But he never doubted the malevolence of Soviet intentions in Eastern Europe, and indeed around the world, and in that regard he was ahead of his time.

In the years after the war, it became progressively apparent that the Western Allies would have to adopt the strongest possible defensive measures against further Soviet aggression in Europe.

In August 1946, the U.S. chiefs of staff became sufficiently fearful of conflict with the Russians to initiate military planning for such a contingency. In London, the 'Unthinkable' file was taken out and dusted down.

Though at no time was it ever deemed politically acceptable or militarily practicable to attempt to free Eastern Europe by force of arms, military preparations for a conflict with the Soviet Union became a staple of the Cold War.

Churchill had proved that, in this new war, as with the one that had just finished, he had unique foresight.

But in one crucial area he lacked any foresight at all. The old warhorse had given little thought to how he and his country would deal with peace.

As we will see tomorrow, he was in for a rude awakening.

Mischievous, demanding and plain rude, Winston Churchill shocked and amused wherever he went. Here, his granddaughter Celia Sandys reveals the hilarious stories of those who met him

For Winston Churchill, it was an idyllic Mediterranean cruise on the most luxurious yacht in the world. But he and the other guests on board the Christina were aware of an atmosphere fraught with tension. 'It was the moment when I knew I'd joined the grown-ups,' recalls Churchill's granddaughter Celia Sandys, who, as a coolly observant 16-year-old, was awake to undercurrents of awkwardness at the dinner table.

She was witnessing the beginning of one of the great love affairs of the 20th century, between Aristotle Onassis and the diva Maria Callas, all played out in front of Ari's wife, Tina. By the end of that cruise, in the summer of 1959, the marriages of both Onassis and Callas would be over.

Celia Sandys in 1962 with Sir Winston Churchill, then aged 87

Celia Sandys in 1962 with Sir Winston Churchill, then aged 87

None of the women in the party liked Callas, and they were appalled when she coquettishly tried to feed the bemused, octogenarian Churchill with ice-cream from her own spoon. Celia, along with her mother, Diana, and grandmother, Clementine, Churchill's wife, bonded in their down-to-earth English dislike of this tiresome drama queen.

'There was a great sense of camaraderie between us once we realised this affair between Callas and Onassis had started. We'd exchange glances across the table and get together in my grandmother's cabin every evening to gossip about the day. It was rather fun. These were the sort of things I'd read about in the News Of The World - when I could get my hands on it,' Celia reminisces now, nearly 50 years on.

She also remembers with much amusement when Gracie Fields boarded the yacht at Capri. The diva made them all suffer a singsong of homely tunes around the piano.

Churchill was fond of Gracie but enough was enough. 'We love you, we do, Sir Winston, we luu-urve you,' warbled Gracie to the tune of Volare. 'God's teeth! How long is this going on?' Churchill muttered, in too loud a stage whisper, to his private secretary Anthony Montague Browne.

As for Callas, she completely failed to grasp that for once somebody else was centre of attention. 'She was terribly irritating,' laughs Celia, thinking back to a shore excursion to the Greek amphitheatre at Epidaurus, where locals had erected a huge floral Victory-V in honour of Churchill. Callas was first puzzled, then furious when she realised the flowers weren't for her. Later, without humour, she remarked, 'It's a pleasure to travel with Sir Winston. He removes from me some of the burden of my popularity.' For Celia, now 65 and a mother of four living in west London, it was always a pleasure to travel with her grandfather and in the last years of his life she spent several holidays with him in the penthouse of Monaco's famous Hotel de Paris. As he was wont to say, 'My tastes are simple. I am easily satisfied by the best.'

Churchill with the 'terribly irritating' opera singer Maria Callas on her lover Aristotle Onassis' yacht, Christina, in 1959

Churchill with the 'terribly irritating' opera singer Maria Callas on her lover Aristotle Onassis' yacht, Christina, in 1959

More recently, Celia has been following in her grandfather's footsteps for a Discovery Channel documentary series, Chasing Churchill, retracing his travels - military, political and private - from his early days as an ambitious young man desperate to make his mark until his final journey to where he was buried at Bladon, in Oxfordshire.

Celia found herself accompanying the most famous man in the world, not out of favouritism, but because 'I just happened to be an available grandchild of an appropriate age'.

And, to her, Churchill was first and foremost a dearly loved Grandpapa. 'He was a very warm person, no question of it being difficult or stuffy to be with him. I wasn't interested in politics at that age, so we'd be more likely to talk about whether his horse had won the latest race or where he'd painted that afternoon.'

Mindful of financial humiliations endured in his own youth, he would pull out wads of banknotes. 'He'd say, "How are you for money, darling?" I always thought it was his winnings from the casino!' remembers Celia, for there was a discreet underground passage linking the hotel to the nearby Monte Carlo gaming house.

'And, very definitely, he wanted to share his pleasures. If he was drinking champagne, he wanted everybody else to drink champagne. When I was about 15, there was an elderly cousin who complimented my mother on her daughter - that was me - and then went for the kill... "Pity the child drinks so much!"

'My mother said I didn't drink. "But she's always got a full glass of champagne," said the cousin. "You watch," said my mother. "She has a glass because it pleases her grandfather but she doesn't drink it... so it's always full." I didn't like champagne then, though I've made up for it since.'

Aristotle Onassis and Celia's 'Grandpapa' in the yacht's swimming pool. It doubled as a dance floor - Onassis' party trick was to flood it while people were still dancing

Aristotle Onassis and Celia's 'Grandpapa' in the yacht's swimming pool. It doubled as a dance floor - Onassis' party trick was to flood it while people were still dancing

Churchill, however, wasn't always such a welcome guest as he was on Aristotle Onassis's yacht and, to Celia's great amusement, researching her grandfather's travels led her to meet the American Senator Harry Byrd Jr, 'a lovely, lovely man', now well into his 90s, who has the oldest living memory of Sir Winston.

He was only 14 when he met the 54-year-old Churchill in 1929 through his father, who was governor of Virginia. But Churchill outstayed his welcome at the governor's mansion, at least in the opinion of the governor's harassed wife.

'My grandfather stayed for ten days and irritated Mrs Byrd by changing mealtimes and menus - and he'd also walk around upstairs in his underwear, and she didn't like that either,' Celia explains. 'Then there was a state dinner and the menu included Virginia ham. Churchill asked for mustard and the butler was sent to the kitchen, came back and said, "I'm sorry, but we don't have any mustard." And Mrs Byrd said, "If you like, I could send to the store." Never expecting him to say, in the middle of dinner, "Yes, that would be very nice."

'And so they all had to wait while the food got cold. When my grandfather left, Harry Byrd remembers his mother turning to his father, and saying, "Don't you ever ask that dreadful man here again!" as the car went out of the drive.

'There was another dinner in Virginia, probably the same visit, when the butler came around with the chicken and asked my grandfather which piece of the bird he would like. He said, "I'd like breast." Whereupon the woman next to him said, "Mr Churchill, in this country we say white meat or dark meat."

'Next day she got a corsage of flowers, saying, "Pin this on your white meat!"'

Onassis' yacht had everything, including this little car in which he is driving Churchill

Onassis' yacht had everything, including this little car in which he is driving Churchill

But while Churchill could often be a high-maintenance guest, on other occasions he could be disarmingly charming. Mary Jean Eisenhower, President Eisenhower's granddaughter, recalled that on a visit to the White House in 1959, her eight-year-old sister interrupted Churchill's conversation with the President to inform him that her doll's nappy had fallen off. Without batting an eyelid, or breaking off his talk, Sir Winston fixed the nappy. 'I was amazed,' Celia says, smiling. 'I can't imagine my grandfather would have known what a nappy was!'

Celia's satisfaction has been in uncovering affectionate stories about her grandfather that wouldn't even make a footnote in a history book. In South Africa, she made a television appeal for people whose parents' or grandparents' lives had touched upon that of the young Churchill in the Boer War. In the small town of Estcourt, at a drinks store called The Plough - Churchill's 'local' - met Derek Clegg, grandson of the local stationmaster whom he befriended in 1899, when, as war correspondent for the Morning Post, he was making daily excursions to spy on the Boers.

He recalled the story of how, night after night, Churchill would regale his fellow drinkers with tall tales of his previous soldiering adventures. 'He told a lot of stories and, of course, they all sounded unbelievable,' said Derek. ' Eventually, when everyone was laughing, he got fed up and said, belligerently, "Mark my words, one day I'll be Prime Minister of England."

Celia's grandfather greets New York from the Christina on his last visit to America in 1961. Onassis is on the left

Celia's grandfather greets New York from the Christina on his last visit to America in 1961. Onassis is on the left

'And many years later, in 1940, when my grandfather had retired, Derek opened his newspaper and said, "By Jove, he's done it!"' The tale of how Churchill was ambushed and arrested by the Boers and staged his audacious escape from prison by hiding in a latrine and climbing over a wall has, of course, been told many times before. 'I know what happened,' says Celia. 'But what I wanted to know was what people thought about my grandfather at the time. One family produced a little note - written by him on the train journey from Natal to Pretoria as he was being taken into captivity. He was being guarded by a young soldier and they got into conversation. And, before they parted, my grandfather wrote on a tiny scrap of paper, "This man has treated me very well. If he is captured by the British, please treat him kindly."'

Churchill had several narrow escapes on his travels, even in peacetime; bullets whistled past his head more than once, and in New York in 1931 he was run over by a car on Fifth Avenue, protected only by his heavy overcoat.

'I do not understand why I was not broken like an eggshell or squashed like a gooseberry,' he wrote in the Daily Mail. 'I certainly must be very tough or very lucky or both.'

From early on, he'd had faith in his luck. 'Bullets are not worth considering,' he wrote to his mother from the dangerous North West Frontier of India in the 1890s. 'Besides I am so conceited I do not think the Gods would create so potent a being for so prosaic an ending.'

Churchill challenged Lawrence of Arabia (third from left) to a camel race in Egypt in 1921. Lawrence, of course, won

Churchill challenged Lawrence of Arabia (third from left) to a camel race in Egypt in 1921. Lawrence, of course, won

Had the gods been inclined to prove him wrong, World War II might have been very different. As prime minister of a beleaguered nation, he travelled constantly during the war - even adjusting happily to a bottle of red wine with his breakfast in North Africa, where he didn't care for tinned milk in his tea.

For all the pressures of war, there were occasional snatched moments. 'You cannot come all this way to North Africa without seeing Marrakech,' he insisted to the wheelchair-bound President Roosevelt after their Casablanca Conference in
1943. Determined to share the sunset over the Atlas mountains, he arranged for the President to be carried to the rooftop of their villa. Celia laughs. 'Roosevelt was reclining on a divan with silk cushions and he lifted his hand to my grandfather, and said, "I feel like a sultan... you may kiss my hand, my dear!" History doesn't relate my grandfather's response.'

Nearly 20 years later, when Celia was on holiday in Monte Carlo with her grandfather, then 87, one morning she found that he had fallen and broken his hip in the night. Sir Winston said he wanted to die in England and an RAF air ambulance flew him home.'I'll never forget the journey,' Celia says. 'I've never seen anybody look as vulnerable. We didn't talk, I just sat and held his hand - and there was a real chance that he wasn't going to make it.'

But as he was carried off the plane, Churchill rallied and gave the V-sign for Victory. He recovered sufficiently to take one more holiday with his granddaughter: 'But everything slowed down after that,' says Celia. 'What was nice for me was to have to myself the man the whole world thought they owned. Just for a little while, to have this companionable time.'

On the day of his state funeral in 1965, she travelled with her grandfather's coffin on his final journey as crowds lined the streets and even the building cranes along the Thames dipped their heads like great sorrowing birds.

'He was a lovely grandfather,' says Celia. 'He still casts a ray of summer on the family.'



The dome of St. Paul's Cathedral (undamaged) stands out among the flames and smoke of surrounding buildings during heavy attacks of the German Luftwaffe on December 29, 1940 in London, England. (AP Photo/U.S. Office of War Information)


During his stay in the Middle East, Britain's Prime Minister Winston Churchill paid a visit to the Alamein area, meeting brigade and divisional commanders, visiting a gun site, and inspecting personnel of Australian and South African divisions, on August 19, 1942 in the western desert. (AP Photo)


A formation of low-flying German Heinkel He 111 bombers flies over the waves of the English Channel in 1940.(Deutsches Bundesarchiv/German Federal Archive) #


Three anti-aircraft guns flash in the dark in London, on September 20, 1940, throwing shells at raiding German planes. Shells in stacked rows behind the guns leap about as the concussions from the firing loosen them. (AP Photo) #


These London schoolchildren are in the midst of an air raid drill ordered by the London Board of Education as a precaution in case an air raid comes too fast to give the youngsters a chance to leave the building for special shelters, on July 20, 1940. They were ordered to go to the middle of the room, away from windows, and hold their hands over the backs of their necks. (AP Photo) #


A German twin propelled Messerschmitt BF 110 bomber, nicknamed "Fliegender Haifisch" (Flying Shark), over the English Channel, in August of 1940. (AP Photo) #


The condensation trails from German and British fighter planes engaged in an aerial battle appear in the sky over Kent, along the southeastern coast of England, on September 3, 1940. (AP Photo) #


Fires set by bursting German bombs lit up the docks along the River Thames in London, on September 7, 1940 and brought into vivid relief the merchant ships lying alongside the many docks which line London's busy port. British sources said the bombing that night was the heaviest of the war to date. (AP Photo) #


A great column of smoke billowing upward from a fire started at Plymouth, South West England, in November 1940, as a result of heavy enemy bombardment. (AP Photo) #


The tail and part of the fuselage of a German Dornier plane landed on a London rooftop shown Sept. 21, 1940, after British fighter planes shot it down on September 15. The rest of the raiding plane crashed near Victoria Station. (AP Photo) #


Workmen fit a set of paraboloids in a sound detector for use by anti-aircraft batteries guarding England, in a factory somewhere in England, on July 30, 1940. (AP Photo) #


The biggest shipping center for London's food-supplies, Tilbury, has been the target of numerous German air attacks. Bombs dropping on the port of Tilbury, on October 4, 1940. The first group of bombs will hit the ships lying in the Thames, the second will strike the docks. (AP Photo) #


Two German Luftwaffe Ju 87 Stuka dive bombers return from an attack against the British south coast, during the Battle for Britain, on August 19, 1940. (AP Photo) #


A bomb is fitted to the wings of a British raider prior to the start of an assault on Berlin, on October 24, 1940. (AP Photo) #


A ninety minute exposure taken from a Fleet Street rooftop during an air raid in London, on September 2, 1940. The searchlight beams on the right had picked up an enemy raider. The horizontal marks across the image are from stars and the small wiggles in them were caused by the concussions of anti-aircraft fire vibrating the camera. The German pilot released a flare, which left a streak across the top left, behind the steeple of St. Bride's Church. (AP Photo) #


People shelter and sleep on the platform and on the train tracks, in Aldwych Underground Station, London, after sirens sounded to warn of German bombing raids, on October 8, 1940. (AP Photo) #


The Palace of Westminster in London, silhouetted against light from fires caused by bombings. (Library of Congress) #


The force of a bomb blast in London piled these furniture vans atop one another in a street after a raid on December 5, 1940.(AP Photo) #


This smiling girl, dirtied but apparently not injured, was assisted across a London street on October 23, 1940, after she was rescued from the debris of a building damaged by a bomb attack in a German daylight raid. (AP Photo) #


Firemen spray water on damaged buildings, near London Bridge, in the City of London on September 9, 1940, after a recent set of weekend air raids. (AP Photo) #


Hundreds of people, many of whom have lost their homes through bombing, now use the caves in Hastings, a south-east English town as their nightly refuge. Special sections are reserved for games and recreation, and several people have "set up house", bringing their own furniture and sleeping on their own beds. Photo taken on December 12, 1940. (AP Photo) #


Undaunted by a night of German air raids in which his store front was blasted, a shopkeeper opens up the morning after for "business as usual" in London. (AP Photo) #


All that remains of a German bomber brought down on the English south-east coast, on July 13, 1940. The aircraft is riddled with bullet holes and its machine guns were twisted out of action. (AP Photo) #


British workers in a salvage yard break up the remains of wrecked German raiders which were shot down over England, on August 26, 1940. (AP Photo) #


A huge scrap heap where German planes, brought down over Great Britain, were dumped, photographed on August 27, 1940. The large number of Nazi planes downed during raids on Britain made a substantial contribution to the national scrap metal salvage campaign. (AP Photo) #


A Nazi Heinkel He 111 bomber flies over London in the autumn of 1940. The Thames River runs through the image.(AP Photo/British Official Photo) #


Mrs. Mary Couchman, a 24-year-old warden of a small Kentish Village, shields three little children, among them her son, as bombs fall during an air attack on October 18, 1940. The three children were playing in the street when the siren suddenly sounded. Bombs began to fall as she ran to them and gathered the three in her arms, protecting them with her body. Complimented on her bravery, she said, "Oh, it was nothing. Someone had look after the children." (AP Photo) #


Two barrage balloons come down in flames after being shot by German war planes during an aerial attack over the Kent coast in England, on August 30, 1940. (AP Photo) #


Air raid damage, including the twisted remains of a double-decker city bus, in the City of London on September 10, 1940.(AP Photo) #


A scene of devastation in the Dockland area of London attacked by German bomber on September 17, 1940. (AP Photo) #


An abandoned boy, holding a stuffed toy animal amid ruins following a German aerial bombing of London in 1940.(Toni Frissell/LOC) #


A German aircraft drops its load of bombs above England, during an attack on September 20, 1940. (AP Photo) #


One of many fires started in Surrey Commercial Dock, London, on September 7, 1940, after a heavy raid during the night by German bombers. (AP Photo/Staff/Worth) #


Fires rage in the city of London after a lone German bomber had dropped incendiary bombs close to the heart of the city on September 1, 1940. (AP Photo) #


London children enjoy themselves at a Christmas Party, on December 25, 1940, in an underground shelter. (AP Photo) #


The effects of a large concentrated attack by the German Luftwaffe, on London dock and industry districts, on September 7, 1940. Factories and storehouses were seriously damaged; the mills at the Victories Docks (below at left) show damage wrought by fire.(AP Photo) #


The Record Office in London, lit by flames ignited by a German air in 1940. (LOC) #


Princess Elizabeth of England (center), 14-year-old heiress apparent to the British throne, makes her broadcast debut, delivering a three-minute speech to British girls and boys evacuated overseas, on October 22, 1940, in London, England. She is joined in bidding good-night to her listeners by her sister, Princess Margaret Rose. (AP Photo) #


Soldiers carrying off the tail of a Messerschmitt 110, which was shot down by fighter planes in Essex, England, on September 3, 1940. (AP Photo) #


Through bombs and sirens, the Windmill Theatre carried on providing music, revue, and ballet performances for the people of wartime London. The artists sleep on mattresses in their dressing rooms, living and eating on the premises. Here, a scene behind the scenes shows one of the girls having a wash while the others sleep soundly surrounded by their picturesque costumes, after the show on September 24, 1940, in London. (AP Photo) #


A German raid smashed this hall in an undisclosed London district, on October 16, 1940. (AP Photo) #


A huge crater was made in a road at Elephant & Castle, London on September 7, 1940, after a night raid on London .(AP Photo/Staff/Worth) #


Two girls on the south coast of England look out toward the beach through a barbed wire fence constructed as part of Britain's coastal defenses (LOC) #


The artist Ethel Gabain, newly appointed by the Ministry of Information to make historical war pictures, at work among bombed ruins in the East End of London on November 28, 1940. (AP Photo) #


A forward machine gunner sits at his battle position in the nose of a German Heinkel He 111 bomber, while en route to England in November of 1940. (AP Photo) #


A boy sits amid the ruins of a London bookshop following an air raid on October 8, 1940, reading a book titled "The History of London." (AP Photo)

Historic match: The scene at Cape Helles, Gallipoili on April 25, 1915 where 20,761 British, Australian and Indian soldiers were killed

Historic match: The scene at Cape Helles, Gallipoili on April 25, 1915 where 20,761 British, Australian and Indian soldiers were killed.



Following the entry of the Ottoman Empire into World War I, First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill developed a plan for attacking the Dardanelles. Using the ships of the Royal Navy, Churchill believed, partially due to faulty intelligence, that the straits could be forced, opening the way for a direct assault on Constantinople. This plan was approved and several of the Royal Navy's older battleships were transferred to the Mediterranean. Operations against the Dardanelles began on February 19, 1915, with British ships under Admiral Sir Sackville Carden bombarding Turkish defenses with little effect.

Churchill’s idea was simple. Creating another front would force the Germans to split their army still further as they would need to support the badly rated Turkish army. When the Germans went to assist the Turks, that would leave their lines weakened in the west or east and lead to greater mobility there as the Allies would have a weakened army to fight against.

The Turks had joined the Central Powers in November 1914 and they were seen by Churchill as being the weak underbelly of those who fought against the Allies.

Churchill had contacted Admiral Carden – head of the British fleet anchored off of the Dardanelles – for his thoughts on a naval assault on Turkish positions in the Dardanelles. Carden was cautious about this and replied to Churchill that a gradual attack might be more appropriate and had a greater chance of success. Churchill, as First Lord of the Admiralty, pushed Carden to produce a plan which he, Churchill, could submit to the War Office. Senior commanders in the navy were concerned at the speed with which Churchill seemed to be pushing an attack on the Dardanelles. They believed that long term planning was necessary and that Churchill’s desire for a speedy plan, and therefore, execution was risky. However, such was Churchill’s enthusiasm, the War Council approved his plan and targeted February as the month the campaign should start.

There is confusion as to what was decided at this meeting of the War Council. Churchill believed that he had been given the go-ahead; Asquith believed that what was decided was merely “provisional to prepare, but nothing more.” A naval member of the Council, Admiral Sir Arthur Wilson, stated:

“It was not my business. I was not in any way connected with the question, and it had never in any way officially been put before me." Churchill’s secretary considered that the members of the Navy who were present “only agreed to a purely naval operation on the understanding that we could always draw back – that there should be no question of what is known as forcing the Dardanelles.”

With such apprehension and seeming confusion as to what the War Office did believe, Churchill’s plan was pushed through. It would appear that there was a belief that the Turks would be an easy target and that minimal force would be needed for success. Carden was given the go ahead to prepare an assault.

Ironically in 1911, Churchill had written:

“It should be remembered that it is no longer possible to force the Dardanelles, and nobody would expose a modern fleet to such peril.”

However, he had been greatly impressed with the power and destructive ability of German artillery in the attack on Belgium forts in 1914. Churchill believed that the Turkish forts in the Dardanelles were even more exposed and open to British naval gunfire.

On February 19th 1915, Carden opened up the attack on Turkish positions in the Dardanelles. British and ANZAC troops were put on standby in Egypt.

The battleship "Cornwallis" bombarding the Gallipoli peninsula

Carden’s initial attacks went well. The outer forts at Sedd-el-Bahr and Kum Kale fell. However, more stern opposition was found in the Straits. Here, the Turks had heavily mined the water and mine sweeping trawlers had proved ineffective at clearing them. The ships under Carden’s command were old (with the exception of the “Queen Elizabeth”) and the resistance of the Turks was greater than had been anticipated. The attack ground to a halt. Carden collapsed through ill health and was replaced by Rear-Admiral Robeck.

By now, there was a military input into Britain’s plan. Lieutenant-General Birdwood, who had been a former military secretary to Lord Kitchener, commanded the ANZAC’s based in Egypt. He reported that a military support for the navy was imperative and General Sir Ian Hamilton was appointed commander of the newly created Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. It contained 70,000 men from Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand along with troops from France. Hamilton left for the Dardanelles on February 13th along with a hastily gathered staff. He had little information on Turkish strength and he arrived on March 18th knowing little about the military situation there. It is probable that he had the same opinion as many as to the ability of the Turks in battle – and this was to prove very costly to the force under his command.

    Also on March 18th, the Allies suffered a chronically embarrassing naval disaster. Three British battleships were sunk, three were crippled (but not sunk). At a stroke, the British had lost 2/3rds of their battleships in the Dardanelles. Robeck had little idea of what to do next. The mine clearing trawlers were ineffective, the Turks held the higher ground which was of great strategic importance and the idea of using destroyers to clear the minefields would have taken time to organise. The army suggested that it should take over.

    On March 22nd, Hamilton and Robeck decided that the naval fleet would sail to Alexandria to give it time to reorganise itself while Hamilton prepared his force for a land battle. According to Winston Churchill, this decision was taken without the knowledge of the government:

    “No formal decision to make a land attack was even noted in the records of the Cabinet or the War Council. This silent plunge into this vast military venture must be regarded as extraordinary.” (Churchill)

    While this was going on, the War Council did not meet and was not to meet for another two months!

    The army’s input into the Gallipoli campaign was a disaster. It would appear that the senior commanders on the ground believed that their opposition simply was not up to the standards of the British and ANZAC troops.

    The Secretary to the War Council, Sir Maurice Hankey, called the whole affair a “gamble” based on the belief that the Turks would be an inferior force. Even the General Officer commanding Egypt, Sir John Maxwell, wrote “Who is co-coordinating and directing this great combine?” Maxwell’s comment was apt. Hamilton commanded the army on the ground; Robeck the navy while Maxwell was GOC Egypt where the troops were based. No one was given overall charge.

    Hamilton decided on a landing at Gallipoli. The landing place was barely a secret as security at Hamilton’s headquarters was regarded as weak at best. Hamilton’s plan was that:

          The 29th Division would land on five small beaches at the southern end of the peninsula

         The ANZAC’s would land further north just by a jutting promontory called Gaba Tepe.

          The French would launch a feint – a ‘landing’ at Besika Bay. The French were to make a proper landing at Kum Kale to protect the 29th Division

    It is generally assumed that one major failing of the Allied forces in the Dardanelles was that they underestimated the ability of the Turks. In fact, the Turkish Army was weak in the region and it was poorly led. On March 24th, the command of the Turks was passed to General Liman von Sanders. He had to defend a coastline of 150 miles with just 84,000 men. However, its fighting capacity was just 62,000 men. The troops that were there were poorly equipped and supplies were poor. Sanders could not call on one plane to assist him. However, he placed his men away from the beaches much to the consternation of the Turkish officers there. They argued that there were so few beaches that the Allies could land on, that Turkish troops were better being placed on the beaches or immediately above them.

    The landings started on April 25th. The British landed unopposed on three beaches at Cape Helles. Another landing was resisted but the Turks were defeated. But the landing at Sedd-el-Bahr was a disaster. The British were caught in the fire of well dug-in Turkish machine gunners. Many British troops could not get ashore and were killed at sea.

    The ANZAC’s landed at Anzac Cove. Here they were faced with steep cliffs which they had to climb to get off the beach. To make matter worse, Anzac Cove was a tiny beach and quickly became very congested. The Turks pushed back the initial ANZAC move inland. The fighting was bloody and costly. The Turks in this area were led by the unknown Colonel Mustapha Kemel. Lieutenant-General Birdwood asked Hamilton for permission to withdraw his troops. Hamilton refused.

    Some months later Birdwood wrote:

    “He (Hamilton) should have taken much more personal charge and insisted on things being done and really take command, which he has never yet done.”

    By May in Helles, the British had lost 20,000 men out of 70,000. Six thousand had been killed. The medical facilities were completely overwhelmed by the casualties. Trench warfare occurred along with the fear of dysentery and the impact of the heat. One British soldier wrote that Helles:

    “looked like a midden and smelt like an open cemetery.”

    The next phase of the battle started in August. Hamilton ordered an attack on Sulva Bay that was not heavily defended. The landing took place on August 6th and involved the landing of 63,000 Allied troops. This time the secrecy behind the operation was so complete that senior officers were unaware of what others were doing. These 63,000 men were meant to take the area around Sulva Bay and then link up with the ANZAC’s at Anzac Cove. The plan very nearly worked but the ANZAC’s could not break out of Anzac Cove. The British at Sulva were pushed back by a frantic attack led by Mustapha Kemal and by August 10th, the Turks had retaken Sulva Bay.

    However, the opponents of the campaign in London had become louder

    Battle for Gallipoli: February 1915 - January 1916

    By 1915 the Western Front was clearly deadlocked. Allied strategy was under scrutiny, with strong arguments mounted for an offensive through the Balkans or even a landing on Germany's Baltic coast, instead of more costly attacks in France and Belgium.

    These ideas were initially sidelined, but in early 1915 the Russians found themselves threatened by the Turks in the Caucasus and appealed for some relief. The British decided to mount a naval expedition to bombard and take the Gallipoli Peninsula on the western shore of the Dardanelles, with Constantinople as its objective. By capturing Constantinople, the British hoped to link up with the Russians, knock Turkey out of the war and possibly persuade the Balkan states to join the Allies.

    The naval attack began on 19 February. Bad weather caused delays and the attack was abandoned after three battleships had been sunk and three others damaged. Military assistance was required, but by the time troops began to land on 25 April, the Turks had had ample time to prepare adequate fortifications and the defending armies were now six times larger than when the campaign began.

    Against determined opposition, Australian and New Zealand troops won a bridgehead at 'Anzac Cove' on the Aegean side of the peninsula. The British, meanwhile, tried to land at five points around Cape Helles, but established footholds in only three before asking for reinforcements. Thereafter little progress was made, and the Turks took advantage of the British halt to bring as many troops as possible onto the peninsula.

    This standstill led to a political crisis in London between Churchill, the First Lord of the Admiralty and the operation's chief advocate, and Lord Fisher, the First Sea Lord, who had always expressed doubts about it. Fisher demanded that the operation be discontinued and resigned when overruled. The Liberal government was replaced by a coalition and Churchill, though relieved of his former post, remained in the War Council.

    Amid sweltering and disease-ridden conditions, the deadlock dragged on into the summer. In July the British reinforced the bridgehead at Anzac Cove and in early August landed more troops at Suvla Bay further to the north, to seize the Sari Bair heights and cut Turkish communications. The offensive and the landings both proved ineffectual within days, faced with waves of costly counter-attacks.

    The War Council remained divided until late 1915 when it was decided to end the campaign. Troops were evacuated in December 1915 and January 1916. Had Gallipoli succeeded, it could have ended Turkey's participation in the war. As it was, the Turks lost some 300,000 men and the Allies around 214,000, achieving only the diversion of Turkish forces from the Russians. Bad leadership, planning and luck, combined with a shortage of shells and inadequate equipment, condemned the Allies to seek a conclusion in the bloody battles of the Western Front. Furthermore, Gallipoli's very public failure contributed to Asquith's replacement as Prime Minister by David Lloyd George in December 1916.

    A second attack was made on the 25th which succeeded in forcing the Turks to fall back to their second line of defenses. Entering the straits British warships engaged the Turks again on March 1, however their minesweepers were prevented from clearing the channel due to heavy fire. Another attempt to remove the mines failed on the 13th, leading Carden to resign. His replacement, Rear Admiral John de Robeck, launched a massive assault on Turkish defenses on the 18th. This failed and resulted in the sinking of two old British and one French battleship after they struck mines.

    With the failure of the naval campaign, it became clear to Allied leaders that a ground force was going to be needed to eliminate the Turkish artillery on the Gallipoli Peninsula which commanded the straits. This mission was delegated to General Sir Ian Hamilton and the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. This command included the newly formed Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC), the 29th Division, the Royal Naval Division, and the French Oriental Expeditionary Corps. Security for the operation was lax and the Turks spent six weeks preparing for the anticipated assault.

    Opposing the Allies was the Turkish 5th Army commanded by General Otto Liman von Sanders, the German advisor to the Ottoman army. Hamilton's plan called for landings at Cape Helles, near the tip of the peninsula, with the ANZACs landing further up the Aegean coast just north of Gaba Tepe. While the 29th Division was to advance north to take the forts along the straits, the ANZACs were to cut across the peninsula to prevent the retreat or reinforcement of the Turkish defenders. The first landings began on April 25, 1915, and were badly mismanaged.

    Meeting stiff resistance at Cape Helles, British troops took heavy casualties as they landed and after heavy fighting were finally able to overwhelm the defenders. To the north, the ANZACs faired slightly better though they missed their intended landing beaches by about a mile. Pushing inland from "Anzac Cove," they were able to gain a shallow foothold. Two days later, Turkish troops under Mustafa Kemal attempted to drive the ANZACs back into the sea, but were defeated by tenacious defending and naval gunfire. At Helles, Hamilton, now supported by French troops, pushed north towards the village of Krithia.

    Attacking on April 28, Hamilton's men were unable to take the village. With his advance stalled in the face of determined resistance, the front began to mirror the trench warfare of France. Another attempt was made to take Krithia on May 6. Pushing hard, Allied forces only gained a quarter mile while suffering heavy casualties. At Anzac Cove, Kemal launched a massive counterattack on May 19. Unable to throw the ANZACs back, he suffered over 10,000 casualties in the attempt. On June 4, a final attempt was made against Krithia with no success.

    After a limited victory at Gully Ravine in late June, Hamilton accepted that the Helles front had become a stalemate. Seeking to move around the Turkish lines, Hamilton re-embarked two divisions and had them landed at Sulva Bay, just north of Anzac Cove, on August 6. This was supported by diversionary attacks at Anzac and Helles. Coming ashore, Lt. General Sir Frederick Stopford's men moved too slowly and the Turks were able to occupy the heights overlooking their position. As a result, the British troops were quickly locked into their beachhead. In the supporting action to the south, the ANZACs were able to win a rare victory at Lone Pine, though their main assaults on Chunuk Bair and Hill 971 failed.

    On August 21, Hamilton attempted to revive the offensive at Sulva Bay with attacks on Scimitar Hill and Hill 60. Fighting in brutal heat, these were beaten off and by the 29th the battle had ended. With the failure of Hamilton's August Offensive, fighting calmed as British leaders debated the future of the campaign. In October, Hamilton was replaced by Lt. General Sir Charles Monro. After reviewing his command, and influenced by the entry of Bulgaria into the war on the side of the Central Powers, Monro recommended evacuating Gallipoli. Following a visit from Secretary of State for War Lord Kitchener, Monro's evacuation plan war approved. Beginning on December 7, troop levels were drawn down with those at Sulva Bay and Anzac Cove departing first. The last Allied forces departed Gallipoli on January 9, 1916, when the final troops embarked at Helles.


    The Gallipoli Campaign cost the Allies 141,113 killed and wounded and the Turks 195,000. Gallipoli proved to be the Turks' greatest victory of the war. In London, the campaign's failure led to the demotion of Winston Churchill and contributed to the collapse of Prime Minister H. H. Asquith's government. The fighting at Gallipoli proved a galvanizing national experience for Australia and New Zealand, which had not previously fought in a major conflict. As a result, the anniversary of the landings, April 25, is celebrated as ANZAC Day and is both nations' most significant day of military remembrance.

    The Australian submarine has got up through the Narrows…
    The Narrows
    Enlarge (opens in new window) The Royal Navy submarine B11, date unknown but after 1906.  On the morning of 13 December 1914 it was commanded by Lieutenant Norman Holbrook when it sank the Turkish battleship, Mesudiye, off Çanakkale in the Narrows of the Dardanelles. The B11 was the last of the British B class submarines to be built between 1904 and 1906. It was eventually converted to a patrol boat and sold for scrap in 1919.

    The most dramatic and evocative way to approach the Gallipoli Peninsula is to take the ferry from Çannakale in Asia to Eceabat in Europe. Once clear of Çannakale, the ferry navigates the Narrows of the Dardanelles where the current pours down from the Sea of Marmara at 4 knots an hour. On the approach to Eceabat a good view can be had up the Narrows towards Nara Burnu (Point) on the Asian shore, close to the historic location of the Greek city of Abydos. From Abybos, each night, so the story goes, Leander swam the straits to visit his lover Hero, a young priestess of Sestos. Here was the crossing point of ancient armies. From shore to shore in 480 BC, Xerxes, King of Persia, built a great bridge of boats and led his forces into Europe. In 479 BC, he fled back across the straits into Asia after his defeat by the Greeks. From Sestos, Alexander the Great set out in 334 BC across the Dardanelles on his conquering journey into Asia. And between these shores in July 1914 the Turks lowered into the water a great wire net to entangle British submarines making the passage of the Narrows and heading for the vital Turkish sea-lanes in the Sea of Marmara.

    To Australians, with their focus on the land battles of Anzac, the British submarine campaign of 1914–1915 in the Dardanelles and the Sea of Marmara, and Australia’s part in it, is little known. Once the landings of 25 April 1915 had taken place, the prime objective of the submariners and their craft was to cause fear and panic on the Turkish sea route along the northern shores of the Sea of Marmara. The Gallipoli fronts were in an isolated position within Turkey, served by poor roads and without railway access. Turkish reinforcements, food and supplies had to be brought in mainly by sea from Constantinople and, if submarines threatened those lines of communication, the Turkish position on the peninsula could become critical. However, submarine attacks at the Dardanelles had begun well before the land campaign.

    On the morning of Sunday 13 December 1914, the American Vice-Consul at Çannakale, Mr C Van Engert, an expert oarsman, rowed himself to a spot just up from the great fortress of Kilitbahir whose guns guarded the Narrows on the Gallipoli side of the straits. He was enjoying the winter sunshine when a huge explosion occurred. Looking down the straits he witnessed, in Sarisiglar Bay below Çannakale, the last moments of the old Turkish battleship Mesudiye. The warship had been anchored off a minefield as part of the defences against British warships that might have tried to penetrate this far into the Dardanelles. Now Engert saw the Mesudiye enveloped in a great cloud of smoke and shells from its guns landing in the calm water between it and Kepez Point. Then the battleship fell over to port and turned completely upside down in the water. Black shapes, members of the crew, were swarming all over the hull and Engert rowed rapidly towards the wreck to help. In his report on the sinking to his government, Engert quoted the German Vice-Admiral Merten, in charge of the Dardanelles defences, to the effect that the sinking of the Mesudiye had been ‘brilliant’, ‘daring’ and a ‘mighty clever piece of work’. The battleship had been attacked and sunk by a torpedo from His Majesty’s Submarine B11.

    ‘B’ Class Submarines at the Dardanelles

    As Turkey drifted into war with the Allies in late October 1914, British and French warships gathered off the Dardanelles. On 3 November 1914, British ships bombarded the fort at Seddülbahir (Sed el Bahr). One might say that these were the first shots of the Gallipoli campaign. The bombardment caused the magazine at the fort to explode, leaving a dense cloud of smoke in the autumn air. Attached to the fleet, now effectively blockading the straits, was a force of British and French submarines among which were HM Submarines B9, B10 and B11. The ‘B’ class vessels were of a fairly simple design. On the surface they could make only 12 knots and, underwater, storage batteries produced six and a half knots per hour. When running on the surface the petrol engine produced fumes in the extremely cramped interior where the eleven-man crew lived and worked among a complicated mass of pipes, valves, pumps, motors and other equipment. These fumes produced a form of drunkenness which as followed by a bad ‘hangover’.

    Enlarge ( new window) As the submariners patrolled the mouth of the straits, they could see the masts of Turkish ships and warships beyond Kepez Point. However, attacking up the Dardanelles in these early submarines was not easy. The strong current against them meant that, when submerged, they could not get far before needing to come to the surface to recharge their batteries. Then they were vulnerable to the Turkish shore batteries, destroyers and gun boats. The straits from just below Kepez Point to above Çannakale had been carefully mined but submarines could proceed under the minefields if they were fitted with gear for pushing aside the mooring ropes that anchored the mines to the sea bed. The ‘B’ class ships did not possess this gear but B11 was now hastily fitted with the necessary guards and wires to enable it to deal with the mooring ropes. At 3.30 am on 13 December, Lieutenant Norman Holbrook took B11 up the Dardanelles with the intention of sinking whatever he could near Çannakale.
    The hands of the clock crawled round

    Holbrook kept B11 submerged running up the western side of the straits where there were cliffs and where he knew the current flowed with less turbulence. He needed to conserve the power of the batteries for the lengthy trip as it was 11 kilometres to the start of the Kepez minefields. Part of the problem B11 encountered in the Dardanelles was the mixture of salt and fresh water at different depths which upset the ship’s ‘trim’, that balance between water and air in her ballast tanks which kept the submarine submerged. Every two hours Holbrook brought B11 to periscope depth to fix his position. (In 1914 submarines were not fitted with the array of sophisticated navigational devices they possess now.) As they made their way in an atmosphere of fumes, oil and petrol, the crew breakfasted – the men on tea, ham, bread, butter and jam while their captain consumed half a lobster given to him by a French submarine officer.

    Enlarge (opens in new window) After five hours submerged B11 approached the Kepez minefield. Holbrook took the submarine deeper to avoid the mines but this meant that B11 was now travelling blind for at least an hour, hopefully heading in the right direction.

    The hands of the clock crawled round as B11 continued on her course. The inside of a dived submarine is very quiet. The hull acts as a sounding board and noises outside are easily heard. Ears were stretched for the sound of a wire scraping on the hull, but the next hour was uneventful, though a very long one.

    [William Jameson, Submariners VC, London, 1962, p.22]

    Enlarge (opens in new window) The end of the Mesudiye

    When he finally thought B11 was through the minefield, Holbrook brought the submarine up to periscope depth. Looking around he realised they were quite far up the straits and Çannakale was visible just under a kilometre away. Swinging the periscope around across the broad sweep of Sarisiglar Bay, just below the town, Holbrook was taken aback to see just the sort of sight he was hoping for – a Turkish battleship, the Mesudiye. Nobody had yet spotted their arrival in the area and B11 possessed one of the elements vital for the success of any attack, surprise. Holbrook manoeuvered the vessel out into the channel, watching the current, until he was under a kilometre from the Turkish warship and fired one torpedo. Half a minute later, although still submerged, the crew heard the explosion as the torpedo hit home and the Mesudiye began to sink. As Holbrook came back to periscope depth to see what had happened, he found the Turkish sailors, although caught unawares, were still prepared to fight. Shells from the stricken ship fell around B11’s periscope, the spray as they hit the water hiding the battleship from sight. Soon, however, the warship turned over and sank.

    Enlarge (opens in new window) Now Holbrook had the problem of getting out of the area safely as the Turkish defences were on full alert. The compass had been damaged and Holbrook had to steer the submarine out of Sarisiglar Bay into the main channel on his own reckoning. As they dived deeper, B11 struck the bottom – for the coastline here, unlike the European side of the straits, was much shallower and full of hidden reefs. Holbrook knew that if the submarine broke surface it was finished as Turkish patrol boats were already looking for them. For ten minutes, at full speed, B11 bumped and shuddered its way along the bottom of the bay, hitting bottom here and there and then breaking free. At 10.20 am, Holbook brought B11 back to periscope depth and was able to guide it out into the main channel. Running submerged, and with the battery low, they now faced the long haul back down the Dardanelles, this time through the minefield at low depth. Without a compass it was essential to surface regularly to get a fix on their position. B11 was only 143 feet (44 metres) long and not nearly as wide as a normal warship, so with luck they would not hit a mine. The crew had now been in this cramped space under water for over eight hours and the air was foul but eventually Holbrook felt that it was safe enough to take dinner in shifts. He finished off the other half of the lobster he had eaten for breakfast and then eased everyone’s tension by issuing a tot of rum. After another two hours B11 safely broke surface three kilometres west of Cape Helles. Holbrook was recommended for and received the first Victoria Cross to a submariner of the war and the first naval VC. All the members of his crew received lesser decorations. Moreover, they had proved that a submarine could successfully go up the Dardanelles and threaten enemy shipping.
    From Germanton to Holbrook
    Enlarge (opens in new window)The story of the B11 would have been incidental to Australian experience of Gallipoli were it not for the patriotic fervour that gripped Australia in 1914 and 1915. It was a particularly difficult time for German-born residents of the Commonwealth, many of whom where interned in special camps. A number of small towns around Australia even changed their names in line with their anti-German feeling and so it was that Germanton, on the Hume Highway north of Albury in New South Wales, became Holbrook. Everyone in the British Empire and Dominions had heard of Lieutenant Holbrook VC and his daring feat in the Dardanelles. The first meeting of the new Holbrook Town Council was held on 24 August 1915. Holbrook himself paid a number of visits to the town during his life and a few years after his death in 1976 his wife donated his medals to the town. Not far away from where a replica of Holbrook’s VC is on display in Holbrook, there is a scale model of a British ‘B’ Class submarine that was unveiled in 1972. And close by that model is a Mark VIII torpedo, the sort of torpedo used in British ‘E’ class submarines that began operations in the Dardanelles in early 1915. The torpedo at Holbrook commemorates a submarine called the AE2.

    ArticleFirst Battle of Krithia
    Opened 28 April 1915

    ArticleCounter-attack at Eski Hissarlik
    Opened 1 May 1915

    ArticleSecond Battle of Krithia
    Opened 6 May 1915

    ArticleTurkish attack at Anzac Cove
    Opened 19 May 1915

    ArticleThird Battle of Krithia
    Opened 4 June 1915

    ArticleBattle of Gully Ravine
    Opened 28 June 1915

    • Anzac Centenary
      Anzac Centenary thumbnail

      Between 2014 and 2018 Australia will commemorate the Anzac Centenary, marking 100 years since our involvement in the First World War. Visit the Anzac Centenary website

    • Timelines
      Australian Soldiers at Lone Pine thumbnail

      The timeline Australians at Gallipoli and at War enables you to quickly locate information and perspectives on significant dates in the history of Australian warfare, including 100 important events at Gallipoli, the role of the Australians in the Gallipoli campaign as well as Australia's involvement in war from 1901 to 2000. more ...

    • The Gallipoli landing
      Landing soldiers thumbnail

      Historians still debate whether the Anzac troops were landed at the correct place. Why did the Allied commanders send Australian troops to land on a beach before rugged hills, ridges and steep gullies? What was the objective? What happened? Trace the events that led to the landing as well as first hand accounts. more ...

    • Bravery at Gallipoli
      Gaining the VC thumbnail

      The Victoria Cross, the highest award for bravery in battle in the old British Empire and Dominions,was awarded to eleven soldiers in the Anzac area of Gallipoli between April and December 1915. Discover how these eleven men earned the Victoria Cross for their extraordinary acts of courage. more ...

    • Nurses at Gallipoli
      Gallipoli Nurse

      Read about the role of the nurses at Gallipoli in 1915, the conditions in which they worked on hospital ships and on the islands of Lemnos and Imbros, what they endured and their feelings about service. Look through the amazing photograph album of Private A W Savage which documents the life of the 3rd Australian General Hospital on Lemnos in 1915, a visual chronicle of life and death. more ...

    • Signaller Silas at Anzac
      Portrait of Ellis Silas thumbnail

      Among the original Australian infantry units at the Battle of the Landing from the evening of 25 April to 3 May was the 16th Battalion. Something of the battalion’s story from its raising in Western Australia in 1914 to the end of the battle was subsequently told by one of their own, the artist Signaller Ellis Silas, in his book Crusading at Anzac, A.D. 1915. more ...



      View of ANZAC Cove, Gallipoli, Turkey, 1915

      • Anzac Day at Gallipoli
        North Beach on Anzac Day thumb

        Find out about the key events held at Gallipoli including the Anzac Day Services which are held each year and which since 2000 have been conducted at the Anzac Commemorative Site. more ...

      • War grave sites at Gallipoli
        Ari Burnu Cemetery thumb

        On the Gallipoli Peninsula today are 31 war cemeteries, and a number of memorials to the missing. The cemeteries contain 22,000 graves. However, only 9,000 of these are of identified burials with grave markers. more ...

      • Anzac Commemorative Site
        Anzac Commemorative Site Plaque thumb

        The Anzac Commemorative Site is 300 metres north of Ari Burnu at North Beach. Explore the site and its Interpretive Panels, as well as how it was constructed, including interactive site plans. more ...

      • Gallipoli tour
        Turkish roadside seller Alçitepe village thumb

        Take guided audio tours of the whole Gallipoli region, including a tour of the Anzac Battlefields, a tour of Cape Helles, and an Asian shores tour including Çanakkale, Fort Dardanos and Kumkale. more ...

      • Turkish memorials
        Turkish Monuments thumb

        Take a tour of the the Turkish monuments and memorials at Gallipoli including those at Kilitbahir and Çanakkale, the Kanlisirt and Atatürk Memorials , Seddülbahir Fort and Atatürk's house at Bigali. more ...


        The interior of Captain Withers dug-out, Gallipoli, Turkey, 1915


          Interior of George Denniston's dug-out, Gallipoli, Turkey, 1915


            Soldiers in a trench, Gallipoli, Turkey, 1915

            HMS Russell above picture was laid down by Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company at Jarrow on 11 March 1899 and launched on 19 February 1902.
            HMS Russell commissioned at Chatham Dockyard on 19 February 1903 for service in the Mediterranean Fleet, in which she served until April 1904. On 7 April 1904 she recommissioned for service in the Home Fleet. When the Home Fleet became the Channel Fleet in January 1905, she became a Channel Fleet unit. She transferred to the Atlantic Fleet in February 1907. On 16 July 1908, she collided with cruiser HMS Venus off Quebec, but suffered only minor damage.
            On 30 July 1909, Russell transferred to the Mediterranean Fleet. Russell transferred to home waters in August 1912. Beginning in December 1913, she served as Flagship, 6th Battle Squadron, and Flagship, Rear Admiral, Home Fleet, at the Nore.
            During the early part of WWI HMS Russell served variously in the Grand fleet & Channel fleet, andparticipated in the bombardment of German submarine facilities at Zeebrugge on 23 November 1914.
            She underwent a refit at Belfast in October-November 1915 before joining the British Dardanelles Squadron in the Dardanelles Campaign at the Gallipoli Peninsula. After the conclusion of the Dardanelles campaign, Russell stayed on in the eastern Mediterranean.
            Russell was steaming off Malta early on the morning of 27 April 1916 when she struck two mines that had been laid by the German submarine U-73. A fire broke out in the after part of the ship and the order to abandon ship was passed; after an explosion near the after 12-inch (305-mm) turret, she took on a dangerous list. However, she sank slowly, allowing most of her crew to escape. A total of 27 officers and 98 ratings were lost. John H. D. Cunningham served aboard her at the time and survived her sinking; he would one day become First Sea Lord.


            DMP-D912 ANZACS CHARGING

            The sacrifice of a generation.
            The australian and new zealand lost almost a generation of youngsters in the battle of Gallipoli, an incredible bad planned and executed battle, in World War I.
            I believe that even today the aussies did not forgive the british for this.

            Victoria Crosses, nevertheless, despite the modesty of some who received them, were hard earned. They stand out as official recognition of an act, or in some cases a series of acts, of outstanding courage. The circumstances surrounding the award of the eleven VCs tell the story of the sort of warfare experienced by the ordinary soldiers of both sides as they fought each other at Gallipoli.

            Walter Parker

            Ironically, the first Anzac area VC did not go to an Anzac. Few of the thousands who commemorate Anzac Day at Gallipoli or in Australia and New Zealand would ever have heard of Lance-Corporal Walter Parker, Portsmouth Battalion, Royal Naval Division. He is not part of Australia’s ‘Anzac Legend’ but his courage under fire between 30 April and 2 May at Anzac when, as a stretcher bearer, he looked after dozens of his wounded comrades despite his own wounds, earned him the Victoria Cross.

            Albert Jacka
            Albert Jacka
            Albert Jacka - all but forgotten

            The first VC to an Anzac went to Lance Corporal Albert Jacka, 14th Battalion AIF. Once Jacka was as well known in Australia and undoubtedly as famous as the man whose name is now almost a national symbol for the whole Gallipoli story – Corporal John Simpson Kirkpatrick, the ‘Man with the Donkey’. Statues of Simpson, along with the donkey, stand today outside the Australian War Memorial and the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne testifying to the power of that story of pure Australian ‘mateship’ at Anzac, the rescue of wounded men under fire. Jacka’s VC, and the subsequent bravery awards he gained in France on the Western Front, were all for significant military action which resulted in driving the enemy from part of the Australian line. So famous did Jacka become in the AIF as a fighting soldier that one historian of the 14th Battalion called his account of the battalion’s war experiences, Jacka’s Mob. On the Australian home-front during the war the name and face of Albert Jacka were instantly recognisable but that recognition has long faded. Peter Cochrane writes of Jacka’s fate:

            In 1930, the date 19 May 1915 was more widely recognised as the day Albert Jacka won the VC than the day of Simpson’s death. By 1960 Jacka and many other heroes were all but forgotten, yet elementary schooling had ensured that Simpson’s epic deeds were as widely known as they had been during the Great War …

            William Dunstan William Dunstan
            Frederick Tubb
            William Symons
            John Hamilton
            Leonard Keysor
            Alfred Shout
            Soldiers of the Australian Imperial Force awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery at Lone Pine, Gallipoli, 6-9 August 1915: from left to right: Corporals Alexander Burton and William Dunstan, Lieutenant Frederick Tubb, all 7th Battalion. Second row: Lieutenant William Symons, 7th Battalion; Private John Hamilton, 3rd Battalion; Lance-Corporal Leonard Keysor, 1st Battalion. Third row: Captain Alfred Shout, 1st Battalion. All images from AWM
            The Battle of Lone Pine

            Much may have been forgotten about those who won fame at Gallipoli but two locations there are still well known. One is Anzac Cove, the beach where most of the Anzacs landed on 25 April 1915. The other is Lone Pine where between 6 and 9 August 1915 there took place one of the most hard-fought actions in Australian military history – the Battle of Lone Pine. Australian casualties at Lone Pine amounted to over 2,000 men while the Turks estimated their losses at 6,930. When it was all over the dead lay thickly all around the position and the war diary of the 2nd Battalion AIF recorded that during the cleaning up process bodies were found in such a state of decomposition that men could only do the work by wearing gas masks. Charles Bean in his official history described Lone Pine as a battle of bombs and hand to hand fighting, ‘the heaviest of its kind in which Australian troops ever took part’. Something of the desperate nature of the struggle can be understood by the fact that seven Victoria Crosses were awarded to Australians for their courage at Lone Pine, five of them for actions on one day alone, 9 August 1915, an unprecedented event in Australian military history. Today, six of those Victoria Crosses are on display in a Lone Pine exhibition in the Australian War Memorial’s Hall of Valour.

            Cyril Bassett – the only New Zealander to get one

            At Anzac the Australians were greatly praised and rewarded for their actions at Lone Pine and other places. Those other Anzacs, the New Zealanders, felt unnoticed. Captain Aubrey Herbert, an Englishman and Intelligence Officer with the New Zealand and Australian Division, wrote of this New Zealand sense of invisibility at Gallipoli as he spoke with the survivors of a NZ infantry battalion after the great battles of the ‘August Offensive’:

            I admired nothing in the war more than the spirit of these sixty-three New Zealanders, who were soon to go to their last fight. When the day’s work was over, and the sunset swept the sea, we used to lean upon the parapet and look up to where Chunuk Bair flamed, and talk. The great distance from their own country created an atmosphere of loneliness. This loneliness was emphasised by the fact that the New Zealanders rarely received the same recognition as the Australians in the Press, and many of their gallant deeds went unrecorded or were attributed to their greater neighbours. But they had a silent pride that put these things into proper perspective.

            [Aubrey Herbert, Mons, Anzac and Kut, internet edition, pp.81-82]

            One New Zealander whose gallant deed was recognised was Corporal Cyril Bassett, NZ Engineers Divisional Signals. As the Australians covered themselves in glory at Lone Pine, the New Zealanders fought their way up from the sea towards the heights of Chunuk Bair. This was the main attack in the so-called ‘August Offensive’ from Anzac designed to capture Koja Temen Tepe and Chunuk Bair, the high points of the Sari Bair range. From there a breakthrough of the Turkish lines towards the straits of the Dardanelles was envisaged and a possible swift and successful end for the Allies of the Gallipoli campaign. It was not to be for the Turks bravely held Chunuk Bair and eventually beat back the New Zealand, British and Indian forces sent against them. For his bravery during the Chukuk Bair action, Corporal Bassett was awarded the VC, the only one to a New Zealander during the Gallipoli campaign. Some later felt bitter about this lack of appreciation of many similar acts of bravery shown by the New Zealanders at Chunuk Bair and other actions at Anzac. Bassett, indeed, was quite surprised by his award and said later in life:

            When I got the medal I was disappointed to find I was the only New Zealander to get one at Gallipoli, because hundreds of Victoria Crosses should have been awarded there.

            [Bassett, quoted in Stephen Snelling, VCs of the First World War: Gallipoli, 1995, p.187]

            All his life Bassett remained quiet about his VC, not even mentioning it to his children, stating that all his ‘mates ever got were wooden crosses’.

            Hugo Throssell – I have never recovered
            Hugo Throssell
            Captain Hugo Throssell VC, 10th Light House Regiment, AIF. [AWM A03688]

            The last of the Anzac area VCs was also perhaps the most tragic. Second-Lieutenant Hugo Throssell, 10th Light Horse, Western Australia, was awarded his VC for an action at a place few Australians have now heard of or, despite the thousands who attend services at Gallipoli on Anzac Day, even visit. Hill 60, Kiajik Aghala (the Sheepfold of the Little Rock) to the Turks, lay well north of the old Anzac position on the front line in the region captured from the Turks during the ‘August Offensive’. For the Australians and New Zealanders much terrible fighting, marked by close range bombing and hand to hand action similar to what had occurred at Lone Pine, took place at Hill 60 between 21 and 29 August 1915. On the night of 28-29 August, a party of Light horsemen commanded by Throssell held off a determined Turkish counter-attack on a captured trench during which hundreds of bombs where thrown by both sides. A curt footnote in Charles Bean’s official history conveys a sense of the terrible intensity of the action that night:

            Shortly afterwards Ferrier was attempting to throw back a Turkish bomb when it burst in his hand, blowing away the arm to the elbow. He walked to the medical aid-post but died on the hospital ship. Macnee was twice wounded. Renton lost his leg. McMahon was killed.

            [Charles Bean, The Story ofAnzac, Vol 2, Sydney, 1924, p.761]

            For his leadership and bravery at Hill 60 Hugo Throssell received the VC. After the war, he returned to Western Australia where he farmed and went into real estate. The Depression brought him to the brink of financial ruin and believing that his wife and family would be better looked after if they had a war service pension, he committed suicide. Throssell had written of himself – ‘I have never recovered from my 1914-1918 experiences’. 

            This gallant company
            Program for reception by Lord Mayor of London, 27 June 1956, for Victoria Cross recipients. [Papers of John Hamilton VC, AWM PR87/031]

            In June 1956 Victoria Cross holders from around the world gathered in London to mark the centenary of the institution of the award by Queen Victoria. At a great parade in Hyde Park Queen Elizabeth II addressed the VCs and in her speech were these lines:

            Today in honouring them [the VCs] for what they did, we pay tribute to an ideal of courage which all in our fighting services have done their best to attain. For beyond this gallant company of brave men there is a multitude who have served their country well in war. Some of them may have performed unrecorded deeds of supreme merit for which they have no reward.

            [Queen Elizabeth II, quoted in Lionel Wigmore in collaboration with Bruce Harding, They Dared Mightily, Canberra, 1963]

            Standing with ‘that gallant company’ in Hyde Park that day were John Hamilton and William Dunstan, the last survivors of the seven Australian Lone Pine VCs. One wonders if Dunstan recalled the letter he had written all those years ago to the local press declining his memorial fund and drawing attention, just as the Queen was now doing, to all those whose courage and sacrifice had earned them nothing more than ‘wooden crosses’.

            The First and Second Naval Bombardment of the Dardanelles, 1915

            The final resting place of a First World War submarine, whose two Royal Navy captains won the Victoria Cross, has been found after 94 years under the sea.

            HMS E14 was discovered off the coast of Turkey with the first images of the wreckage showing the sub appears to be largely intact.

            Its precise location in the eastern Mediterranean remained a mystery until this month when a Turkish marine engineer and a diver detected it on the seabed off the town of Kumkale -  just 800ft from the beach.

            Watery grave: The coral-encrusted HMS E14 which was found earlier this month off the coast of Turkey in the Dardanelles Strait after being sunk 94 years ago

            Watery grave: The coral-encrusted HMS E14 which was found earlier this month off the coast of Turkey in the Dardanelles Strait after being sunk 94 years ago

            At war: HMS E14 is pictured in 1914 with her crew. She was captained by two officers who each won the Victoria Cross for their heroics on board the submarine

            At war: HMS E14 is pictured in 1914 with her crew. She was captained by two officers who each won the Victoria Cross for their heroics on board the submarine

            Sunk by heavy shellfire, the E14 was lying at a depth of 65ft at an angle of almost 45 degrees with sand covering nearly all the 181ft vessel.

            At least one shell hole was visible near the bows, but that appeared to be the only damage and now the British government is to ask the Turkish authorities to preserve the site as a war grave

            E14 was sunk in January 1918, with the loss of 25 lives while on a mission to torpedo the flagship of the Ottoman empire’s navy.

            She had navigated 20 miles through dense minefields and past a string of enemy positions into the heavily fortified Dardanelles - the narrow straits between modern-day Turkey’s European and Asian coasts,

            Hero: Lieutenant Commander Edward Boyle Hero: Lieutenant Commander Geoffrey Saxton White

            Heroes: Lieutenant Commander Edward Boyle and Lt-Cdr Geoffrey White who uniquely each won the Victoria Cross for their exploits as skippers on HMS E14

            When her captain, Lieutenant-Commander Geoffrey Saxton White, found his target was not where he expected, he attacked a Turkish merchant ship.

            But the raid went wrong when one of the torpedoes exploded prematurely, damaging E14 and it was forced to surface where it was bombarded by Turkish coastal artillery.

            Bravery: A replica of the Victoria Cross awarded posthumously to Lt-Cdr Geoffrey White

            Bravery: A replica of the Victoria Cross awarded posthumously to Lt-Cdr Geoffrey White

            Capt White knew his submarine could not reach the open sea, and directed her towards a nearby beach, in an effort to save the crew. A survivor recalled that his last words were – 'We are in the hands of God', uttered moments before he was killed by a shell and the submarine went under.

            For his actions, he was posthumously awarded the VC. White was 31 and left a widow and three children under the age of six.  Only seven of E14’s 32 crew managed to escape alive, according to the Sunday Telegraph.

            In 1915 during the Gallipoli Campaign, the submarine went on a sortie through the straits, past minefields in the Sea of Marmara.

            Her skipper then was Lieutenant Commander Edward Boyle, who won the VC for sinking an Ottoman gunboat, a troop ship and disabling a warship deep in enemy territory

            The wreck was discovered by marine expert Selçuk Kolay and film-making diver Savas Karakas, who had spent three years trying to find it.

            After studying documents at the national Archives in Kew, west London, and surveying Turkish defences, they scanned an unusual object from a boat on the surface.

            But they could not establish what it was because it was near the mouth of the straits –  a  sensitive military area where diving was forbidden.

            It took two years to get permission from the military before their team were able to dive to the wreck and confirm it was the E14 earlier this month.

            The vessel appeared to be less than a quarter of a mile from getting out of the straits and safely out of the range of the Turkish guns.

            Mr Kolay told the Sunday telegraph: 'The wreck is in a good condition and is one of the best preserved submarines of its type left on the earth. It is of great historical significance.'

            Boyle, who was born in Carlisle and went to school at Cheltenham College, also served in the Second World War, reaching the rank of rear admiral. He died, aged 84, in 1967 in Ascot, Berkshire.

            His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum inGosport, Hampshire.

            The VC won by White, from Bromley, Kent, is now owned by his grandson, Richard Campbell, 60, from Pulborough, West Sussex, who keeps it in a bank.

            He said: 'I have always felt that my grandmother is the only person who really had the right to sell it, if she wanted to. It was very dear to her. She had great pride in it, without a doubt.'


            Sir Winston Churchill

            With Winston Churchill having (as First Lord of the Admiralty)

            succeeded in securing War Cabinet backing for action in the Dardanelles (see overview for details), he lost no time in implementing a blueprint for a purely naval bombardment of the Dardanelles Straits in February 1915.

            A purely naval bombardment of the Straits had long been recognised in professional naval circles as a most difficult undertaking.  Some eight years earlier, in 1907, a British study had concluded that an attack upon the Straits was feasible only so long as the operation was a combined naval/ground undertaking.

            However Churchill, impatient for action, demanded that Sir Sackville Carden - the British naval commander in the Mediterranean - provide him with a proposal for a naval-only offensive upon the Straits.  Carden obliged - although without appending a personal endorsement of the plan - and it was this plan that Churchill brought to the British War Cabinet in mid-January 1915.

            The Straits - 65km in length and 7km in width aside from 'The Narrows' where the banks were as little as 1,600 apart - were overlooked by steep and heavily fortified cliffs (the Gallipoli peninsula to the northwest and the coast of Asia Minor to the south).  Navigation through the wildly varying current was additionally deemed problematic.

            Sir Sackville Carden

            Carden's plan was three-fold.  He recognised that simple bombardment of the overlooking Turkish fortresses was impractical.

            For one thing, naval artillery could not be expected to achieve the necessary steep trajectory required to knock out the forts.

            He proposed instead that the forts' outer guns should first be neutralised via long-range gunfire, the battleships out of effective range of the fortress guns.  This accomplished an Allied fleet would progress further up the Straits (to The Narrows) to enable medium-range artillery to destroy shore batteries while minesweepers wiped out probable minefields blocking their path.  The final phase envisaged the destruction of the inner forts.

            Success would provide a path to Constantinople, thereby knocking Turkey out of war, and - importantly - open a supply lane to the Sea of Marmora and Britain's ally Russia.

            Such was Carden's plan.  Grave problems remained.  Even should the naval bombardment prove successful the absence of ground troops would prevent the British from gaining command of the shorelines - and in the absence of supplies from the shore the naval fleet would necessarily have to return home to refuel and restock.


            View along trenches, Russell's Top, Gallipoli, Turkey, 1915

            Nevertheless Churchill's plan was formally approved by the War Cabinet at the end of January 1915.  The British war minister, Lord Kitchener, ordered that the only available division of infantry be placed in readiness should the naval endeavour prove successful.  The First Sea Lord, Admiral John Fisher, was initially mute in his opposition to the exercise (in which he had no faith), but his opposition was to grow over time and ultimately lead to both his and Churchill's resignation.

            Admiral John Fisher

            Meanwhile the French government, in the form of incoming naval minister Jean Augagneur, was reluctant to cede the possibility of a purely British naval success in the Mediterranean.

            Ignoring professional advice therefore Augagneur committed four French pre-dreadnoughts to add to the British fleet.  He further came to an understanding with Churchill that should the expedition give signs of failure the 'demonstration' would be abandoned without loss of prestige.

            Churchill was optimistic however.  A previous demonstration of naval force by Carden on 2 November, using long-range guns (and ordered by Churchill), had inflicted notable damage upon the outer Turkish forts - chiefly as a consequence of lucky targeting.  Nevertheless it served as encouragement to Churchill - and, to a lesser extent, to Carden.

            Churchill set a date of 19 February for the opening of the naval bombardment.  The combined British and French fleet consisted of the new battleship Queen Elizabeth, 3 battlecruisers, 16 pre-dreadnought (including four French vessels), 4 cruisers, 18 destroyers, 6 submarines, 21 trawlers plus the seaplane carrier Ark Royal.  Overseeing the effort was Carden.

            Pounding the outer fortresses Cape Helles and Kum Kale from long-range on 19 February the British and French attack proved ineffective in the face of an efficient Turkish defensive system and poor Allied gunnery, although greater damage was inflicted than the bombarding naval forces realised.  Unbeknown to the Allies the Turkish defenders were also critically short of ammunition.

            A renewed bombardment from closer range the following week (following a pause for adverse weather), on 25 February, was similarly unsuccessful.  While the outer forts were themselves seized by marines the Allied force could not effective silence the 24 Turkish mobile batteries that poured shellfire from the heights and served as highly effective protection for the elaborate minefield defence set in place in The Narrows.

            Without neutralising the minefield the fleet could not move forward: and without destroying the mobile batteries the minefields were adequately protected.  While stage one of Carden's plan had therefore been accomplished serious difficulties impeded an advance to the second stage.

            Still, the relative lack of progress of the first two naval bombardment attempts did not deter Churchill from ordering Carden to try again, this time via a determined effort to force The Narrows and remove the minefield threat.  This duly took place on 18 March 1915 amid heavy failure.

            In the meantime plans were afoot in London for the despatch of an expeditionary ground force under Sir Ian Hamilton, thereby fully committing Allied resources to the region.


            The Attempt on the Dardanelles Narrows, 1915

            Sir John de Robeck

            Having paused to consolidate following the clear failure of the previous month's attempts to batter the Turkish protective fortresses,


            a further naval effort was briefly launched on 18 March in an attempt to break through The Narrows: so-named because just 1,600 heavily-mined metres separated the shore on either side.

            The naval attacks upon the Dardanelles Straits on 19 & 26 February had nevertheless succeeded in achieving the first element of naval Commander-in-Chief Sir Sackville Carden's three-point blueprint for seizing control of the Straits and thus access to Constantinople and a supply route to Britain's ally in the east, Russia.

            The Straits - 65km in length and 7km in width (aside from 'The Narrows') were overlooked by steep and heavily fortified cliffs: the Gallipoli peninsula to the northwest and the coast of Asia Minor to the south.  Navigation through the wildly varying current was additionally considered problematic.

            Carden's plan was three-fold.  He recognised that simple bombardment of the overlooking Turkish fortresses was impractical.

            He proposed instead that the forts' outer guns should first be neutralised via long-range gunfire, the battleships out of effective range of the fortress guns.  This accomplished an Allied fleet would progress further up the Straits to The Narrows to enable medium-range artillery to destroy shore batteries while minesweepers wiped out probable minefields blocking their path.  The final phase envisaged the destruction of the inner forts.

            Sir Sackville Carden


            Thus with stage one achieved - the outer forts (Cape Helles and Kum Kale) had fallen to the marines - Sir Winston Churchill, the British First Lord of the Admiralty, ordered Carden to proceed to stage two, capture of the Narrows.

            The attack was to be launched on 18 March 1915, five days following a further minesweeping failure along the Straits.  Immediately before the attack's launch however Carden collapsed from nervous exhaustion.  He was replaced by Sir John de Robeck.

            The renewed attack by sixteen battleships plus many other smaller vessels, and which stretched up to 10km up the Straits, proved a heavy failure, chiefly on account of the presence of an unsuspected drifting minefield set on 8 March.  Five Allied warships were sunk or disabled by mines during the operation: the British Inflexible, Irresistible and Ocean; and the French Bouvet and Gaulois (the latter caused great political damage to the French naval minister who had backed the British plan, Jean Augagneur, eventually leading to his replacement).

            Distraught by the experience de Robeck insisted that no further attempt be made until ground troops had been landed and given time to capture the high ground around the Narrows.  He maintained this view even under heavy pressure from such political heavyweights as Winston Churchill, the First Lord of the Admiralty, and his own fiery Chief of Staff Roger Keyes, refusing to countenance a further attack which he believed would inevitably fail at heavy cost.  In this he was backed by the professional staff at the Admiralty in London.

            As a consequence of de Robeck's stance he came under sustained criticism from those who felt that he had in effect doomed the whole Dardanelles campaign to failure.  Sir Ian Hamilton, Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (appointed on 12 March by war minister Lord Kitchener even before the failed naval attempt), subsequently agreed to attempt to capture land dominating the Narrows in a meeting held with de Robeck four days after the failed attack.

            Otto Liman von Sanders

            On 23 March Churchill reported to the War Cabinet his reluctant view that the naval attack upon the Straits had failed.

            His own political career damaged, the dramatic resignation of First Sea Lord Admiral Fisher - who had never held any great confidence in the plan and who resented Churchill's 'misuse' of 'spare' battleships - brought about Churchill's own political demise.

            For all that the naval attempts had failed the Turkish defenders had run critically short of ammunition.  Liman von Sanders, the German officer appointed in March to take charge of defensive operations, suspected that a follow-up attack by the Allies might well succeed.  He was consequently elated once realisation dawned that no follow-up assault was forthcoming.

            Instead he had time available to reconsolidate the Turkish defence for a combined Allied naval/ground offensive.  In the event he was given rather more time than he could have hoped for: Allied landings on the peninsula took some five weeks to co-ordinate, by which time Liman's sophisticated defences were in readiness.

            Battles - The Gallipoli Landings at Helles and Anzac Cove, 1915

            Australian soldier carrying wounded comrade, Gallipoli, 1915

            February and March 1915 saw a series of three purely naval assaults upon the Dardanelles Straits

            by a combined British and French force led by Sir Sackville Carden and, latterly, Sir John de Robeck.  All ended in failure: all were the brainchild of British First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill.  The failure of the naval offensive ultimately claimed the careers of Churchill, First Sea Lord Admiral John Fisher (whose resignation brought Churchill down with him) and French naval minister Jean Augagneur.

            Thus what began as a 'demonstration' of naval force against Turkish fortresses in the Dardanelles Straits claimed a number of high profile political scalps.  Rather than call off the endeavour in failure however the British and - somewhat more reluctantly, the French - government decided to press forward with a combined naval/ground expedition, the whole to be led by Lord Kitchener's former protégé, the newly-appointed Sir Ian Hamilton.

            Hamilton was assigned a force of 75,000 men by Kitchener and a further 18,000 French colonial troops were added on 10 March.  Facing him were 84,000 Turkish troops - amounting to six divisions - led by attached German officer Liman von Sanders.

            Horse-drawn ambulance at Helles

            When Liman was given the task of organising the Turkish defence of the peninsula on 25 March

            he was initially fearful that the grave shortage of ammunition allied with poor organisation and lack of men - just 20,000 were then available - would leave the Turkish position open to a successful invasion.

            He need not have feared however.  Hamilton inherited an equally if not more disorganised operation.  Quite aside from being unsure what he was expected to achieve the courteous Hamilton set sail from England minus his staff and with the absence of informed intelligence data concerning the Turkish defences.

            Added to Hamilton's woes were extended delays in arranging for the receipt of his ground troops.  Those that arrived early at Mudros - on the island of Lemnos, rear headquarters for the operation - were promptly despatched to Egypt pending the arrival of further men and sufficient equipment in the necessary transports.

            In all the expedition took in excess of five weeks to arrive on the peninsula, leaving Liman with adequate time to prepare his defences.  Nevertheless Hamilton still held one notable advantage: the site and date of the invasion was to be of his choosing.  Liman could only carefully apportion his forces to likely strategic locations and hope for the best.

            Liman chose to site two of his six divisions around Bulair and the Gulf of Saros, on the neck of the peninsula and regarded as the most probable invasion target.  A further two divisions were stationed at Besika Bay on the Asian coast close to the Allied fleet.  Liman placed a single division under Colonel Mustafa Kemal at the peninsula's southernmost tip; and the final division was placed on standby as a reserve force in the heart of the peninsula.

            In the event the landings took place at two locations on 25 April 1915, Cape Helles and Ari Burnu (shortly afterwards renamed Anzac Cove).  These were selected by Hamilton on the basis that the capture of these would assist the progress of the Allied battlefleet along the Straits.

            The landing at Cape Helles on the peninsula's southern tip, which was badly mismanaged by Aylmer Hunter-Weston, was at five locations ('Y', 'X', 'W', 'V' and 'S' Beaches) and consisted of 35,000 men.  15km further along the Aegean coast the Australian and New Zealand Corps - Anzacs - comprising 17,000 largely untried men were landed at Ari Burnu ('Z Beach'), 1.5km north of Gaba Tepe (where the landing was actually intended).  William Birdwood's management of the Anzac's landing was markedly better than Hunter-Weston.

            Meanwhile part of the French force, a division under General d'Amade, acted as a diversion by successfully landing on the Asiatic shore at Kum Kale and taking possession.  Also serving as diversion were the remainder of the British force which continued further north to Bulair, leading Liman to believe that a further invasion site was planned.  Part of the French force also feigned a landing at Besika Bay.

            Mustafa Kemal

            Indeed Liman required two days until he correctly ascertained the true key invasion sites and was able to respond accordingly.  Until this time a single Turkish division served to defend against Hamilton's force at Cape Helles and Ari Burnu.

            For all that the Turkish defending force was relatively weak, it performed remarkably well in holding back Hunter-Weston's force of 35,000 at Cape Helles.  Of the five landing sites two ('W' and 'V' Beaches) came under heavy Turkish machine gun fire.  The remaining three sites were quickly secured, yet inexplicably Hunter-Weston chose not to press forward and attack the remainder of the defence force, seemingly content with his initial gains.  He could however find recourse in Hamilton's vague directive stating that the actual landings be given highest priority rather than further advances.

            At Ari Burnu however Birdwood found his entire landing unopposed, and he took full advantage by pushing up in the direction of the Chunk Bair height which overlooked the entire peninsula.  However a resolute Turkish defence force hastily assembled by Colonel Kemal halted the Anzac advance, eventually forcing Birdwood's men back to the beaches by the day's close.

            The Allied position by the end of 25 April was not therefore an encouraging one.  Landings had been achieved at Cape Helles and Ari Burnu, but advances had not been feasible (or, in Hunter-Weston's case, attempted) at either.  Turkish troops quickly surrounded the Allied force and in addition were in possession of the heights above the beachheads.  Hamilton's force, finding itself short of necessary ammunition, was further handicapped by the requirement to use its artillery sparingly.

            Sir Aylmer Hunter-WestonYet Liman's Turkish force similarly found itself unable to advance, finding it difficult to push Hamilton's solidly entrenched men back into the sea.  Stalemate set in, along with a particularly unpleasant form of trench warfare similar to that experienced on the Western Front.


              Russell's Top, Gallipoli, Turkey, 7 August 1915

              Three days after the 25 April landings Hamilton determined to extend the Allied position in the south with attacks directed towards Krithia to which the Turkish force at Helles had retired.  Unduly optimistic in its aims three successive operations were launched upon Krithia by Hunter-Weston: all were thrown back by Liman's increasingly effective Turkish defence force.

              Hamilton's overall losses were heavy.  Up to one third of his force had suffered casualties.  He consequently requested reinforcements from Kitchener in London.  The latter ultimately obliged but not without first having to face a barrage of criticism from British and French commanders on the Western Front adamant that reserves could not be spared from the struggle in the west.

              Eventually reinforced to twelve divisions Hamilton's next move came on 6 August 1915 with a further landing at Suvla Bay intended to link up with Birdwood at Anzac Cove and sweep across the peninsula.

              899 x 567)


              Soldiers landing at Gallipoli, 1915


                Unloading supplies at Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, Turkey, 1915


                British WWI troops at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli, Turkey, 1915


                View of the deck of a destroyer waiting to land New Zealand troops at ANZAC Cove, Gallipoli, Turkey, 1915


                Military supplies piled up on Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, May 1915


                Troops preparing to disembark waiting to land New Zealand troops at ANZAC Cove, Gallipoli, Turkey, 1915



                Soldiers in a trench using a periscope rifle, Gallipoli, Turkey, 1915


                World War I soldiers in a trench during the Gallipoli campaign in Turkey, 1915


                Landing horses at Gallipoli, ca 1915


                View of the deck of a destroyer waiting to land New Zealand troops at ANZAC Cove, Gallipoli, Turkey, 1915



                Unidentified soldiers embarking off the 'Lutzow' [Zutzow] at Gallipoli, Turkey, during World War I, 1915

                Australian Soldiers - 1918


                Australian soldiers in army camp - WW1

                This image was scanned from a photograph in the Dalton Family Papers, held by Cultural Collections at the University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia. It is from a collection of photos and letters by William Dalton, who served in the A.I.F. during World War I.

                Schoolchildren from every state secondary school will travel to the First World War battlefields as part of commemorations of the centenary of the outbreak of the conflict in 1914. David Cameron today announced £50million has been found to commemorate the start of the Great War in 1914, with communities across the UK urged to organise events. The Prime Minister said he hoped the events would 'honour those who served, remember those who died and ensure that the lessons learnt live with us for ever'. 

                David Cameron said a speech at the Imperial War Museum today that the First World War's place in the national consciousness meant it had to be commemorated properly Mr Cameron announced every secondary school in England will send student ambassadors to visit the battlefields


                David Cameron said a speech at the Imperial War Museum today that the First World War's place in the national consciousness meant it had to be commemorated properly. Mr Cameron announced every secondary school in England will send student ambassadors to visit the battlefields . The Government has been accused of being slow off the mark in setting out its vision for the landmark anniversary, but the Prime Minister insisted the coalition will throw its weight behind the events with an ambitious programme of ceremonies and memorials. In a speech at the Imperial War Museum, Mr Cameron said he hoped for a 'truly national commemoration worthy of this historic centenary' which, like the events held to mark the Diamond Jubilee this year, 'says something about who we are as a people'.

                The Prime Minister added: 'A commemoration that captures our national spirit in every corner of the country from our schools and workplaces, to our town halls and local communities. 'Whether it’s a series of friendly football matches to mark the 1914 Christmas Day Truce, or the campaign by the Greenhithe branch of the Royal British Legion to sow the Western Front’s iconic poppies here in the UK, let’s get out there and make this centenary a truly national moment in every community in our land. 'The Centenary will also provide the foundations upon which to build an enduring cultural and educational legacy to put young people front and centre in our commemoration and to ensure that the sacrifice and service of 100 years ago is still remembered in 100 years time.'
                National commemorations of the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War are likely to centre on the Cenotaph in central London, where Remembrance Sunday is marked each year

                Crosses bearing a poppy at a war memorial in Hyde Park in London today as the government revealed plans to commemorate the centenary of the start of the First World War

                National commemorations of the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War are likely to centre on the Cenotaph in central London, where Remembrance Sunday is marked each year. Crosses bearing a poppy at a war memorial in Hyde Park in London today as the government revealed plans to commemorate the centenary of the start of the First World War. Mr Cameron announced a £5million fund for the Centenary Education Programme for children to learn about the conflict. 'This will include the opportunity for pupils and teachers from every state secondary school to research the people who served in the Great War and for groups of them to follow their journey to the First World War Battlefields.' Two student ambassadors and a teacher from each secondary schools in England to visit the battlefields and undertake research on local people who fought in the war.




                David Cameron unveiled a four-year £50million programme to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the start of the First World War. It includes:

                • A £35million refurbishment of the World War One galleries at the Imperial War Museum, to open in 2014. It is part-funded by £5million from the Treasury raised fines imposed on banks for financial misconduct
                • A series of national commemorative events marking the start of the First World War in 2014, the first day of the Battle of the Somme  in 2016 and Armistice Day in 2018
                • Two students and a teacher form every secondary school in England to visit the battlefields and report back to other pupils as part of a £5.3million project to encourage research into local links with the frontline
                • Heritage Lottery Fund grants of £15million for community education projects including £6million announced today
                • HMS Caroline, the last surviving warship from the conflict, will have a secure future in Belfast thanks to a grant of up to £1million from the National Heritage Memorial Fund

                The trips will start from Spring 2014 and run until March 2019. The outbreak of the ‘war to end all wars’ is officially recorded as 28 July 1914 when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, a month after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Mr Cameron revealed there will be national commemorations for the first day of conflict on the 4 August 2014 and for the first day of the Somme on 1 July 2016. Further events would be held to commemorate Jutland, Gallipoli and Passchendaele, leading up to the centenary of Armistice Day in 2018. A £5million government grant for the Imperial War Museum will be doubled to £10million to help transform the museum in London. The Heritage Lottery Fund is spending £6million to help young people learn about local connections with the war, in addition to £9million already committed to projects marking the centenary. The national commemoration of the war effort and sacrifice made by people from across the United Kingdom will be the backdrop for campaigning in the referendum on Scottish independence, which is expected in autumn 2014.

                Mr Cameron said he could understand why some people would question why he was committing such large sums to the commemorations ‘money is tight and there is no-one left from the generation that fought in the Great War’. But he said the sheer scale of the sacrifice, the impact of the war on Britain and the world and its affect on the British psyche meant it had to be marked properly. Mr Cameron said: 'There is something about the First World War that makes it a fundamental part of our national consciousness. ‘Put simply, this matters: not just in our heads, but in our hearts.  It has an emotional connection.  I feel it very deeply. 'We look at those fast fading, sepia photographs of people posing stiffly, proudly in uniform, in many cases for the first and last image ever taken of them. And this matters to us.' In his Tory party conference yesterday, Mr Cameron voiced his irritation at trying to reach agreements at EU summits. But today he said: ‘However frustrating and however difficult the debates in Europe, 100 years on we sort out our differences through dialogue at meetings around conference tables not through the battle on the fields of Flanders or the frozen lakes of Western Russia.' The Royal British Legion, which was founded in the aftermath of World War War, will be central to the nation’s commemorations. Chris Simpkins, the Legion’s Director General, said: 'The tragic events of 1914-1918 have left a deep imprint on the fabric of the nation. As the Custodian of Remembrance, the Legion will ensure that the centenary will be observed across the UK – the costs of sacrifice and the lessons learned in this dreadful conflict must not be forgotten. 'The losses of World War I were felt in every town and village across the UK, as demonstrated by the monuments found in nearly every village green or churchyard. It is right and proper that the centenary has a strong local flavour.' Ahead of Mr Cameron’s speech in London today, a new opinion poll revealed the public would like to see the centenary marked on Remembrance Sunday 2014 as a special national day, with shops closed, football matches postponed and flags flying at half mast.

                Seven in ten (69 per cent) of people believe the milestone will be a once-in-a-generation moment and an opportunity to mark the nation's shared history, according to the poll commissioned by the British Future think tank. More than half of people (54 per cent) think sports games should be rescheduled to other days, while 45 per cent said shops should be closed.

                More than a million Britons died in the First World War. The Battle of the Somme was one of the most deadly in the four year conflict. Here a party of Royal Irish Rifles is pictured in a communication trench on the first day of the Battle of the Somme
                More than a million Britons died in the First World War. The Battle of the Somme was one of the most deadly in the four year conflict. Here a party of Royal Irish Rifles is pictured in a communication trench on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Personal accounts of life on the frontline are likely to feature heavily in the commemorations, most notably from the Battle of the Somme, the bloodiest day in the history of thcountry after a period of silence. Some 87 per cent think all flags across Britain should fly at half mast throughout the day. e British army. The poll of 1,782 adults found 83 per cent of people want bells to ring across the

                Personal accounts of life on the frontline are likely to feature heavily in the commemorations, most notably from the Battle of the Somme, the bloodiest day in the history of the British army
                  Harry Patch, the last remaining veterans of World War One, who died in 2009The coffin of World War I veteran Harry Patch leaves Wells Cathedral

                Senior politicians from all parties marked the death of Harry Patch, the last surviving British soldier to have fought in the trenches on the Western Front. His funeral in 2009 was held at Wells Cathedral

                British Future is also calling a longer period of silence to be observed to mark the day. Sunder Katwala, director of British Future, said: ‘The centenary of the Great War should be the next great national moment bringing us together as the Jubilee and Olympics did this year. ‘Should this be a special Sunday where we close the shops and have a football-free day and find ways to bring us together and understand our history and the country we have become?"


                Tory MP Andrew Murrison, a serving naval doctor, has helped co-ordinate the government’s plans, as the Prime Minister’s special representative. He said: 'From  2014, nations, communities and individuals from across the world will come together to mark, commemorate and remember the lives of those who lived, fought and died in the First World War.  'The UK’s programme has been carefully planned to emphasise remembrance but also to recognise the global impact of those terrible years, and what today’s young people can learn from it.' Mr Cameron has now appointed two former defence secretaries, Conservative Tom King and Labour’s George Robertson, to work with Dr Murrison on organising the events, alongside former Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell, former chief of the defence staff Sir Jock Stirrup and ex-chief of the general staff Richard Dannatt. The advisory board will also include historian Hew Strachan and novelist Sebastian Faulks. Culture Secretary Maria Miller, who will chair the board, said: 'All of us, young and old, have a connection to the First World War, either through our own family history, the heritage of our local communities or because of its long term impact on society and the world we live in today. 

                'It is absolutely right that we mark its centenary and do so not simply with the solemnity that such an anniversary demands, but with a programme containing a significant educational element, so that our young people have the chance to appreciate the enormity of what happened at the beginning of the last century, and its continuing echoes in our lives today.'

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