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What went wrong at Gallipoli in 1915?

Source 8

Letter from Churchill to Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State for War April 1915 (possibly unsent)


CHAR 13/45/163-164

Simplified Transcript

My dear Kitchener
I hope you’ll give Hamilton enough troops. A loyal man like him will go on without complaining. The initial success we’ll have had might be lost. I’d feel much happier if we had an extra 20000 troops. Surely you can spare them from Egypt for two weeks? Don’t brush this request aside. My feeling is that you’re cutting it fine and we don’t have enough troops.

Please don’t be angry with me for raising this. It won’t cost us much to have this back-up. If Hamilton has to ask for more troops it’s sure to be too late then.

Your friend
Winston Churchill

Original Transcript

My dear Kitchener,

I hope you will not cut Hamilton too fine. A loyal man like that will go on with what he has got &never say a word till he cracks up. The easy good fortunes of a beginning may depart again. I sh’d [should] feel y[very] much happier if you cd [could] manage to have another 20,000 in the offing even if they were never landed. It would be a gt [great] insurance; & surely at a pinch you cd [could] spare them from Egypt for a fortnight. Do not brush this aside with confident scorn. The things that have to be done are y [very] difficult and a sincere opinion deserves to be considered. Do consider this. Don't run short of stuffing behind your attack - even if you never need it. My feeling is you are running it vy [very] fine.

Don't be vexed with me for bringing this up. It costs so little to have a shot in the locker [??]. Don't wait till he asks you. It is sure to be too late then.

Your friend,
Winston S. Churchill

What is this source?

A letter from Churchill to Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State for War, dated 26 April 1914, but probably not sent.

Background to this source

The aim of the Gallipoli campaign was to over-stretch German forces by forcing them to fight on another front and also to knock Turkey, one of Germany’s allies out of the war. The initial plan, for a naval attack on the Dardanelles, resulted in the forces being beaten back and so a revised plan was made to invade Gallipoli on the shores of the Dardanelles. This 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. 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. What is Churchill concerned about?
  2. How does Churchill feel about Hamilton?
  3. What does Churchill want?
  4. How does he try to persuade Kitchener?

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 about the campaign.

Kitchener and Churchill are friends and trust each other.

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. Does the letter seem friendly and co-operative or is there an edge to it?
  • What can historians infer from the fact that Churchill sent very similar letters to Kitchener in this source and had intended to send a very similar one to Kitchener’s aide in the previous source?

Explore the guide to interpreting letters

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