Churchill Archive for Schools - Themes_Key questions_wrong at Gallipol

What went wrong at Gallipoli in 1915?

Source 6

Orders from Churchill to Vice-Admiral Carden, dated 13 March 1915


CHAR 13/54/79-80

Simplified Transcript

Your message gives the impression that you haven’t made any progress. I don’t understand why you haven’t carried on minesweeping. Two or three hundred casualties would be an acceptable price to clear the mines.

Secondly, we have information that the Turkish forts are running out of ammunition and have asked Germany for more.

All this makes clear that we must press forward. The enemy is under pressure now.

Thirdly, Sir Ian Hamilton leaves tonight to command the army and will be with you soon. Please co-operate fully with him but don’t delay your operations.

I’ve sent more ships to support you – HMS Queen and HMS Implacable.


Original Transcript

From admiralty [handwritten] DATE 13/3.

To British Admiral, Sent.

Following is not to be sent by W/T
Admiral Carden has been told to send destroyer for it.
First Lord to Admiral Carden.
Personal and Secret.Your 203 gives the impression of your being brought to a standstill both by night and day during the 12th and makes me anxious to receive your reply to admiralty telegram No.101. I do not understand why minesweeping should be interfered with by fire which causes no casualties. Two or three hundred casualties would be a moderate price to pay for sweeping up as far as the Narrows. I highly approve your proposal to obtain volunteers from the Fleet for Mine Sweeping. This work has to be done whatever the loss of life and small craft and the sooner it is done the better.

Secondly we have information that the Turkish Forts are short of ammunition and that the German Officers have made desponding reports and have appealed to Germany for more. Every conceivable effort is being made to supply ammunition. It is being seriously considered to send a German or an Austrian submarine but apparently they have not started yet. Above is absolutely secret.

All this makes it clear that the operations should now be pressed forward methodically and resolutely by night and day the unavoidable losses are accepted.

The enemy is harassed and anxious now. Time is precious as the interference of submarines would be a very serious complication.

Thirdly, Sir Ian Hamilton leaves tonight to command the Army and will be with you on Tuesday 16th. Take him fully into your confidence and let there be the most cordial cooperation. But do not delay your own operations on this account.

The First Sea Lord has ordered QUEEN and IMPLACABLE to sail tonight to strengthen your Fleet and provide further reserve for casualties.

“W. S. C.”


What is this source?

This is a telegram containing direct orders from Churchill to his Naval Commander on the spot, Vice-Admiral Sackville Carden. The telegram was sent during the opening phase of the Gallipoli operation.

Background to this source

The telegram was sent during the crucial opening phase of the attack, where the Royal Navy was responsible for trying to force its way through the Dardanelles Straits towards Constantinople. The first stage was bombardment of the forts and gun emplacements on the shores of the Dardanelles, especially on Gallipoli. This had taken place and the Royal Navy was also trying to clear mines from the straits before sending its ships through.

British intelligence indicated that Turkish forts were running low on ammunition and this information was being passed on by Churchill. The Royal Navy attacked on 18 March but the mines hadn’t all been cleared and the British lost three battleships and several other craft. This later raised the question of whether Churchill was wrong to push Carden the way he did.

How can we use this source in the investigation?

Remember, we’re hoping that this source can be useful to us in investigating what went wrong at Gallipoli in 1915. Sources usually help historians in two ways:

Surface level

  1. What orders does Churchill give to Carden?
  2. What are his views on minesweeping and Carden’s approach to it?
  3. What information does Churchill pass on to Carden?
  4. What help did Churchill send?

Deeper level

Which of the inferences below can be made from this source?

On a scale of 1-5 how far do you agree that this source supports this inference?Which extract(s) from the source support your argument?
Churchill seems realistic and cautious about the campaign.

Mines are proving to be a problem.

There’s evidence of proper inter-service communication.

Leadership and command appears effective.

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Need help interpreting the source?

  • The key issue in this source is the relationship between Churchill and Carden. Does this source give the impression that Churchill is supportive? Carden had a nervous breakdown soon after this exchange and was replaced by Admiral Robeck. Would it be unfair to say Churchill put undue pressure on Carden?
  • Churchill championed the Dardanelles campaign and saw it as his role to enthuse and persuade others. Do you think Churchill ignored reasonable objections because of his conviction about the Dardanelles campaign?

Source 7

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