The Grand Deception: Winston Churchill's Role in the Dardanelles Disaster

Curran, Thomas (2007). The Grand Deception: Winston Churchill's Role in the Dardanelles Disaster PhD Thesis, School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics, University of Queensland.

       
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Author Curran, Thomas
Thesis Title The Grand Deception: Winston Churchill's Role in the Dardanelles Disaster
School, Centre or Institute School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics
Institution University of Queensland
Publication date 2007
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Dr Andrew Bonnell
Abstract/Summary In 1945 Winston Churchill was acclaimed as a national hero in Britain, and rightly so, for his leadership throughout the Second World War, especially during the dark days of 1940. Thirty years earlier, however, it had been an entirely different story. In 191 5, according to many of his contemporaries, Churchill was reviled and mistrusted throughout Britain, as a dishonest, ego-driven political adventurer and a public danger to the Empire. Indeed his political career would appear to have been placed at considerable risk at this time. Winston Churchill's role in, and responsibility for the Dardanelles/Gallipoli disaster of 1 91 5 has remained a contentious issue ever since that tragic event. On the one hand an overwhelming body of popular opinion, supported by social historians, journalists and biographers of Churchill, has accorded his heroic status retrospectivity, and maintains that he was denied the spectacular victory his visionary strategy merited only by the weakness and irresolution of others - in particular, of Lords Kitchener and Fisher, heads of the British Army and Royal Navy respectively. The alternative, minority opinion, held by leading military and naval experts in 191 5, and supported by a small number of prominent military and naval historians in recent years, maintains that Churchill was almost entirely responsible for the Dardanelles fiasco himself. The primary source evidence necessary for a resolution of this matter is contained within the official documents of the British Cabinet, Admiralty, War Office and Foreign Office; within the private papers of the individuals concerned; and also within the evidence presented to the Dardanelles Royal Commission in 191 6-1 7. This material has been available for public scrutiny since the mid-1 960s with the expiration of the Fifty Year Rule on official secrecy. For some inexplicable reason, however, this evidence has never been subjected to an exhaustive investigation by Britain's scholars which could have determined the exact role played by Churchill in the unfortunate campaign and the extent of his, Lord fisher's and Lord Kitchenergs culpability. It is the purpose of this thesis, therefore, to conduct such an investigation in order to redress that deficiency. The major themes addressed herein will be: Winston Churchill's contempt for the expertise of the admirals, his usurpation of absolute control over naval operations and the consequent naval disasters during the early months of the war; Churchill's deception of everyone involved with his claims for the success of a purely naval operation at the Dardanelles; the various factors which contributed to the naval fiasco, especially Churchill's press release on 20 February, giving the Turks advanced warning of his forthcoming operation; and the central minesweeper problem, persistently ignored by Churchill. His claim that he was denied a spectacular success at the Dardanelles by the intransigence and irresolution of Kitchener and Fisher will be examined in detail. The thesis also documents the means adopted by Churchill to re-write the history of the Dardanelles campaign in order to extricate himself from any blame - in particular, his flouting of the Official Secrets Act and his Privy Councillor's Oath in order to publish official documents in his version of the events surrounding the campaign. The influence of the flawed Dardanelles Commission Report and the enduring impact of Churchill's apologia The World Crisis will be assessed together with the polarisation of opinion regarding Churchill's culpability, which persists to this day.

 
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Created: Fri, 21 Nov 2008, 15:34:28 EST