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What went wrong at Gallipoli in 1915?

Source 7

An unsent handwritten letter from Churchill to General Oswald Fitzgerald about the Gallipoli situation, dated April 1915


CHAR 13/45/160-162

Simplified Transcript

My dear Fitzgerald,

I hope Kitchener will give Hamilton enough troops. I’ve a feeling that we need another 20, 000 men. They can be brought from Egypt in a week. A brave attack like this may go well at first but it must be supported with reinforcements.
So far all is well but we’re watching carefully for the right opportunity. I think we need more men close by.
Remember, history will record this campaign: every attack needs to be backed up.

Yours sincerely,
Winston Churchill

Original Transcript

Most Secret
My dear Fitzgerald,

I hope K will not cut Hamilton too fine. I have a feeling that there ought to be another 20,000 men in it. They can get there in a week from Egypt. A valiant and successful attack like this may go well for a time: but there must be staffingbehind & inside it.
So far all is well but watching carefully that the two or three precious days that decide things are not lost.
I think there ought to be more men: at any rate more near the spot.
Remember every minute of this is history: and every attack requires backing.

Yours sincerely,
Winston Churchill

What is this source?

A letter from Churchill to Lord Kitchener’s Personal Military Secretary, Lieutenant-Colonel Fitzgerald, asking for more soldiers be sent to General Hamilton, on 24 April 1915. Churchill drafted this letter but decided not to send it.

Background to this source

The aim of the Gallipoli campaign was to stretch German forces to another front and also to knock one of Germany’s allies out of the war. The initial plan for a naval attack on the Dardanelles was beaten back and so a revised plan was made to invade Gallipoli on the shores of the Dardanelles with land forces. The land attack would be commanded by General Sir Ian Hamilton.

Initially the Gallipoli attacks worked well and progress was made. However, the momentum quickly dissipated and the Turkish army resisted strongly. Churchill felt that more troops would guarantee success but not all of his colleagues agreed with him.

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. Who is Churchill asking for more men?
  2. Why does he not appeal to Lord Kitchener directly?
  3. Why does Churchill appear to be worried about a specific time frame?

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.

There’s a hint of animosity between Churchill and Kitchener.

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 Kitchener and how this would affect the Gallipoli operations. You might want to think about whether the letter seems friendly and co-operative or whether there’s an edge to it.
  • Sources 3, 5 and 8 are letters Churchill sent directly to Kitchener but this one is to Kitchener’s Military Secretary.
  • This letter wasn’t in fact sent. Can you think of reasons why the letter might not have been sent?
  • Why do you think Churchill refers to the campaign being part of history? Does this reveal anything about Churchill? Could this be a device to put pressure on Fitzgerald?

Explore the guide to interpreting letters

Source 8

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