Anzac Day: The Gallipoli Campaign

I was ruined for the time being in 1915 over the Dardanelles, and a supreme enterprise was cast away, through my trying to carry out a major and cardinal operation of war from a subordinate position. Men are ill- advised to try such ventures. This lesson had sunk into my nature.

Winston Churchill

Today is Anzac Day, in Australia and New Zealand.   It commemorates the landing of the New Zealand and Australian troops at Gallipoli in World War I.  Although the effort to take the Dardanelles was ultimately unsuccessful, the Anzac troops demonstrated great courage and tenacity, and the ordeal the troops underwent in this campaign has a vast meaning to the peoples of New Zealand and Australia.

This year I thought we would focus on taking a closer look at the Gallipoli Campaign.  It was the project chiefly of Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty.  Churchill was an idea man.  He constantly came up with ideas that ranged from insane to brilliant.  The Gallipoli idea I think was on the surface brilliant.  Seize the Dardanelles, the opening of the sea corridor between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, take Constantinople, ferry Russian troops over the Black Sea by the Royal Navy to knock out Turkey from the War and then launch a war winning campaign up the Balkans to drive the Austro-Hungarian Empire out of the War and then defeat a surrounded Germany.  It had the hallmark that would always remain Churchill’s goal in the realm of grand strategy: a short cut to victory.  Rather than slug it out against Imperial Germany in bloody trench warfare where, in Churchill’s grim phrase, brave men matched their bodies against machine guns, take an easier and quicker path to victory by defeating the weaker allies of Germany.  Small wonder that Churchill convinced the British war cabinet to back this bold gamble.

This brilliant idea also had drawbacks that tend to suddenly appear when a high concept plan is attempted to be implemented in this Vale of Tears.

  1. Geography-The rough terrain of Gallipoli offered superb defensive ground for the Turks.
  2. Mines-In a narrow sea passage like the Dardanelles heavy use of mines could negate the sea power of the Royal Navy.
  3. Logistics-Keeping a large invasion force supplied would require a maximum effort, limiting the number of troops that could be landed and supported.
  4. New type of warfare-This type of amphibious operation seems commonplace now.  It was not in 1915.  There was much to learn in a short period, and many mistakes to make.
  5. Johnny Turk-The average illiterate peasant Turkish soldier was almost totally ignorant of the outside world and had little but hate for the Young Turk politicians of Constantinople.  He had a great love for his religion and his country however, and he knew how to handle his weapons.  If commanded to hold a position he would hold it or die trying.  A superb soldier in defense.

Summing up the British implementation of the Gallipoli plan the phrase too little and too late recur.  Not enough forces were allotted,  and operations seemed to proceed in slow motion giving the Turks maximum opportunity to thwart the effort.

So the troops deployed, were left to endure a Golgotha of insufficient rations, appalling weather, millions of flies, some of the worst terrain on Earth over which to attempt to attack, all while fighting a valiant and tenacious foe.  By January 1916 the British had enough and withdrew.  The Butcher Bill was appalling:

British Empire:

198,340 (31,389 killed
9,708 missing and POWs
78,749 wounded
78,494 evacuated sick

France:

9,000 killed & missing
18,000 wounded
20,000 evacuated sick

Australia:

7,594 killed
18,500 wounded

New Zealand:

3,431 killed
4,140 wounded

The casualties for the sparsely populated countries of Australia and New Zealand sparked a moment in their new national histories that would never be forgotten, as they took pride in the courage and determination of their troops in a losing effort, which would ultimately end in victory in the War overall.

Published in: on April 25, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Anzac Day: The Gallipoli Campaign  
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Roosevelt and Churchill: Parallel Lives

“I dislike the father and dislike the son, so I may be prejudiced.  Still, I feel that, while the biographer and his subject possess some real farsightedness…both possess or possessed such levity, lack of sobriety, lack of permanent principle, and an inordinate thirst for that cheap form of admiration which is given to notoriety, as to make them poor public servants.”

Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 commenting privately on Winston Churchill’s biography of his father Lord Randolph Churchill.

Gary Oldman received a well-earned Oscar as best actor for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour (2017):

I wish we had a modern day Plutarch to write parallel lives of Churchill and his closest American analogue, Theodore Roosevelt.

Both Churchill and Roosevelt came from families of great wealth and influence, and idolized their fathers, although in the case of Winston Churchill that idolatry was misplaced due to the fact that in many ways his father was a self-absorbed cad who had almost no time for his son.  Both fathers died relatively young.

Churchill and Roosevelt both enjoyed political success at early ages and both were national figures for most of their adult lives.

Both would break with the political parties that they started with, and both would return to their early political allegiances.  Both were looked at askance by the establishments of their political parties.

Both men were champions of the development of the early welfare states, while also ferocious opponents of socialism.

Churchill and Roosevelt both fought in wars for their countries and achieved fame as a result.

Both were serious historians, wrote many volumes on various subjects and also wrote for the newspapers and journals of their day.

Larger than life figures, they both had huge public images that hid the private men within the images.

Both had large families and dearly loved their wives and children.

Orators of the first rank, both Roosevelt and Churchill were masters of the spoken and written English tongue.

Both were essentially conservative reformers.

Of course there are also important differences.  Two come to mind immediately.  Roosevelt never confronted the great challenge of war as a statesman as Churchill did.  He was President at a time of peace.  The second is that Churchill lived for 90 years to Roosevelt’s 60.  If Churchill had lived to Roosevelt’s age, he would never have been Prime Minister of England and lesser men might well have led the British to make a squalid temporary peace with Hitler.  If Roosevelt had lived to Churchill’s age he would almost certainly have been elected President in 1920 and would have died in 1948.

The essential similarity of Roosevelt and Churchill is that they viewed life as a wonderful adventure and history as a great heroic epic in which their nations were destined to play great roles.  Statesman like them are rare indeed and happy the nations which have them.

Published in: on March 7, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Roosevelt and Churchill: Parallel Lives  
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Rousing a Sleeping Giant

 

At the end of the epic movie Tora, Tora, Tora, (1970), Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the head of the combined Japanese fleet, after the successful attack on Pearl Harbor, refuses to join in the elation of his staff, and makes this haunting observation: “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”  The line is almost certainly apocryphal.  The director of the film, Elmo Williams, claimed that Larry Forester, the film’s screenwriter, had found the line in a 1943 letter written by Yamamoto.   However, he has been unable to produce the letter, and there is no other evidence that such a letter exists.

However, there is no doubt that Yamamoto would fully have endorsed the sentiment that the line contained.  He had studied at Harvard in 1919-1921, and served two tours as a naval attache at the Japanese embassy in Washington DC.  He spoke fluent English, and his stays in the US had convinced him of that nation’s vast wealth and industrial power.  He had also developed a fondness for both America and Americans.

In the 1930’s Yamamoto spoke out against Japan allying with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, fearing that such an alliance would lead inevitably to a war with the US that Japan would lose.  He received frequent death threats as a result from fanatical Japanese nationalists.  These were not idle threats, as such nationalists did assassinate a fair number of Japanese politicians and military men during the Thirties who were against war with the US.  Yamamoto ignored the threats with studied contempt, viewing it as his duty to the Emperor and Japan to speak out against a disastrous course.  Yamamoto wrote in a letter to one nationalist:

Should hostilities once break out between Japan and the United States, it would not be enough that we take Guam and the Philippines, nor even Hawaii and San Francisco. To make victory certain, we would have to march into Washington and dictate the terms of peace in the White House. I wonder if our politicians (who speak so lightly of a Japanese-American war) have confidence as to the final outcome and are prepared to make the necessary sacrifices. (more…)

Published in: on December 7, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments (4)  
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March 5, 1946: Churchill Delivers Iron Curtain Speech

 

Seventy-four years ago Winston Churchill delivered what is remembered as his “Iron Curtain” speech, although Churchill referred to it as his “Sinews of Peace” speech.  Invited to speak at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri by President Truman, Churchill, out of power since the defeat of his Conservative Party at the polls in 1945, had looked on developments in Europe with growing alarm as the Soviets installed puppet regimes throughout Eastern Europe.  Harry Truman, also convinced that it was impossible to work with Stalin, warmly applauded the speech.  The Cold War had been waged by the Soviets since before the last shots had been fired of World War II.  Now the West would begin to fight back.  Here is the text of the speech:

 

President McCluer, ladies and gentlemen, and last, but certainly not least, the President of the United States of America:

I am very glad indeed to come to Westminster College this afternoon, and I am complimented that you should give me a degree from an institution whose reputation has been so solidly established. The name “Westminster” somehow or other seems familiar to me. I feel as if I have heard of it before. Indeed now that I come to think of it, it was at Westminster that I received a very large part of my education in politics, dialectic, rhetoric, and one or two other things. In fact we have both been educated at the same, or similar, or, at any rate, kindred establishments. (more…)

Published in: on March 5, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on March 5, 1946: Churchill Delivers Iron Curtain Speech  
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Last Surviving RAF Ace of the Battle of Britain Passes

Sad, but inevitable:

LONDON — Paul Farnes, one of the last remaining Battle of Britain fighter pilots who helped protect the U.K. during World War II, has died. He was 101.

Farnes, who was a wing commander during the war, died at his home Tuesday, the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust said late Wednesday.

He had been the last surviving pilot who had been officially designated an “ace” because of the number of enemy aircraft he downed.

He was one of roughly 3,000 airmen who fought the German Luftwaffe in the skies above southern England in 1940 when Britain was vulnerable to invasion by Nazi forces.

The group was honored by wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill who said “never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

Farnes was also the last remaining member of the group who was healthy enough to attend a memorial day event last year.

Farnes was “very proud” of his Distinguished Flying Medal, the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust said. He was responsible for the destruction of six enemy planes, the damage of six others, and the probable destruction of another.

Go here to read the rest.

Published in: on February 4, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Last Surviving RAF Ace of the Battle of Britain Passes  
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December 8, 1941: Churchill Declares War on Japan

In the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, and the attack of British possessions in Asia, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Winston Churchill, wasted no time in recognizing that a state of War existed between the British and the Empire of Japan:

As soon as I heard, last night, that Japan had attacked the United States, I felt it necessary that Parliament should be immediately summoned. It is indispensable to our system of government that Parliament should play its full part in all the important acts of State and at all the crucial moments of the war; and I am glad to see that so many Members have been able to be in their places, despite the shortness of the notice. With the full approval of the nation, and of the Empire, I pledged the word of Great Britain, about a month ago, that should the United States be involved in war with Japan, a British declaration of war would follow within the hour. I, therefore, spoke to President Roosevelt on the Atlantic telephone last night, with a view to arranging the timing of our respective declarations. The President told me that he would this morning send a Message to Congress, which, of course, as is well known, can alone make a declaration of war on behalf of the United States, and I then assured him that we would follow immediately.

However, it soon appeared that British territory in Malaya had also been the object of Japanese attack, and later on it was announced, from Tokyo, that the Japanese High Command—a curious form; not the Imperial Japanese Government—had declared that a state of war existed with Great Britain and the United States. That being so, there was no need to wait for the declaration by Congress. American time is very nearly six hours behind ours. The Cabinet, therefore, which met at 12.30 to-day, authorised an immediate declaration of war upon Japan. Instructions were sent to His Majesty’s Ambassador at Tokyo, and a communication was despatched to the Japanese Chargé de Affaires at 1 o’clock to-day to this effect:

(more…)

Published in: on December 8, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on December 8, 1941: Churchill Declares War on Japan  
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One of the Last of the Few

‘Here’s a Spitfire – fly it, and if you break it there will be bloody hell to pay’.”

Geoffrey Wellum

 

Geoffrey Wellum has died at age 97.  He had the distinction of being the youngest British pilot, at age 18, to participate in the Battle of Britain.  Go here to read about him.  Seven of The Few still remain among us.

 

The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the world war by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.

Winston Churchill, August 20, 1940

 

 

 

 

 

Published in: on July 23, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on One of the Last of the Few  
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Winston Churchill: July 4, 1918

churchill-great-war-375x500

 

 

A speech given by the half-American Winston Churchill at a celebration of the Fourth of July at the city of Westminster, England on July 4, 1918:

 

We are, as the Chairman has stated, met here to-day in the City of Westminster to celebrate the hundred and forty-second anniversary of American Independence. We are met also, as he has reminded you, as brothers in arms, facing together grave injuries and perils, and passing through a period of exceptional anxiety and suffering. Therefore we seek to draw from the past history of our race inspiration and encouragement which will cheer our hearts and fortify and purify our resolution and our comradeship. A great harmony exists between the Declaration of Independence and all we are fighting for now. A similar harmony exists between the principles of that Declaration and what the British Empire has wished to stand for and has at last achieved, not only here at home, but in the great self-governing Dominions through the world. The Declaration of Independence is not only an American document; it follows on Magna Charta and the Petition of Right as the third of the great title deeds on which the liberties of the English-speaking race are founded. By it we lost an Empire, but by it we also preserved an Empire. By applying these principles and learning this lesson we have maintained unbroken communion with those powerful Commonwealths which our children have founded and have developed beyond the seas, and which, in this time of stress, have rallied spontaneously to our aid. The political conceptions embodied in the Declaration of Independence are the same as those which were consistently expressed at the time by Lord Chatham and Mr. Burke and by many others who had in turn received them from John Hampden and Algernon Sidney. They spring from the same source; they come from the same well of practical truth, and that well, ladies and gentlemen, is here, by the banks of the Thames in this famous Island, which we have guarded all these years, and which is the birthplace and the cradle of the British and the American race. It is English wisdom, it is that peculiar political sagacity and sense of practical truth, which animates the great document in the minds of all Americans to-day. Wherever men seek to frame polities or constitutions which are intended to safeguard the citizen, be he rich or be he poor, on the one hand from the shame of despotism, on the other from the misery of anarchy, which are devised to combine personal liberty with respect for law and love of country — wherever these desires are sincerely before the makers of constitutions or laws, it is to this original inspiration, this inspiration which was the product of English soil, which was the outcome of the Anglo-Saxon mind, that they will inevitably be drawn. (more…)

Published in: on July 1, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Winston Churchill: July 4, 1918  
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Quotes Suitable for Framing: Alfred the Great

“That on you is fallen the shadow,
And not upon the Name;
That though we
scatter and though we fly,
And you hang over us like the sky,
You are more
tired of victory,
Than we are tired of shame.

“That though you hunt
the Christian man
Like a hare on the hill-side,
The hare has still more
heart to run
Than you have heart to ride.

“That though all lances
split on you,
All swords be heaved in vain,
We have more lust again to
lose
Than you to win again.”

King Alfred, G.K. Chesterton, Ballad of the White Horse

 

We discern across the centuries a commanding and versatile intelligence, wielding with equal force the sword of war and of justice; using in defence arms and policy; cherishing religion, learning, and art in the midst of adversity and danger; welding together a nation, and seeking always across the feuds and hatreds of the age a peace which would smile upon the land.

Winston Churchill on Alfred the Great

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published in: on May 6, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Quotes Suitable for Framing: Alfred the Great  
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Orson Welles on Churchill

 

Ah, for the halcyon days of my youth when talk shows did not consist of mindless chatter about sex, bleeped F-Bombs from some non-educated “celebrity” or stale, politicized tripe.  I have always been somewhat skeptical about evolution, but the contemporary world, at least the human portion of it, does make a striking case for de-evolution.

Published in: on January 24, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Orson Welles on Churchill  
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