“It is terrible trying to carry on war under such conditions”

General Callwell shared some secrets with former assistant Ralph Glyn, now at the Dardanelles.

26, Campden House Chambers
Campden Hill, W

13th December 1915

My dear Ralph

I am taking time by the forelock to drop you a line as the Bag does not go for a couple of days, but there is such a rush these times that it dies not do to leave anything to the end.

I am afraid the retirement from Suvla and Anzac will prove a costly business and it is deplorable that there was so much delay in deciding after Monro reported at the end of October. As a matter of fact the War Council decided on evacuation on the 23rd ult – while K was out in those parts – and Squiff sent me over to Paris to tell Gallieni and old man Joffre; but the Cabinet overrode the War Council and the decision was not finally taken by the Cabinet till the 7th. It is terrible trying to carry on war under such conditions.

The French have been very troublesome over Salonika. We and even our Government have been opposed to that affair all along, but the French managed to drag us into it by threatening to regard our refusal as a blow to the entente. Murray and I, backed up by Robertson, went to Chantilly to see old Joffre, but could not get him to change his mind, and then Squiff [Asquith] and three others of the same sort went over and saw the French Government, but it was no good. I went with Squiff and we had quite a gentlemanly trip in specials and Destroyers, but poor old AJB was a terrible wreck after a Destroyer trip. Then, although Gallieni lied to me gallantly about it, the French never sent that infernal fellow Sarrail orders to retire till his position was extremely awkward and in consequence our 10th Division had a very bad time; but they seem to have done well.

All kind of changes are in the air. Johnny French is to be degomme’ at once, Haig taking his place; and there is a good deal of talk about Robertson becoming CIGS – he caries heavier ordnance than Murray. Henry Wilson is very unhappy at Johnny French’s departure and I am not sure what will become of HW. I doubt whether Haig will have him in his present job and he has come to be looked upon as what the soldier detests – a political general.

The Government is rocky and Bonar Law told me the other day that he thought Gallipoli would finish them. He (BL) should have resigned when Carson did. When K was away in the east they all declared that they would not have him back, but he is back and does not look like going although he is much tamer than he was. He said to me plaintively the other day that the Cabinet would not believe anything he told them and now always insisted on a printed paper from the General Staff. It was rather amusing at a War Council the other day while he was out your way. They were squabbling away about everything after the usual fashion when a box was brought in to Squiff and he read out a wire from K, ending up with an announcement that he was coming home. With one voice the whole gang said he must go to Egypt to report and a wire to that effect was drafted on the spot – however he took no notice and came home in spite of them.

I hope that you are fixed up and getting on well with your RNAS affairs. As Helles is not to be evacuated I suppose that the bulk of Sykes’ commando will remain where it is although there will be plenty of work for airmen in Egypt shortly. I am writing to Bell before the Bag goes and also to Birdwood.

Yours ever
Chas E Callwell

Letter from General Callwell to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C24)

Advertisements

“The Government are now told the truth and they quite like it”

General Callwell reported on the latest changes at the top, with a new sense of realism facing the Government – and absolutely everyone hoping to get rid of Lord Kitchener despite his popularity with the general public.

26 Campden House Chambers
Campden Hill, W

12th November 1915

My dear Ralph,

You are in the thick of things at Mudros. We cannot yet quite make out whether old man K proposes to evacuate Gallipoli or not altogether, but the PM is a fairly downy cove too and I think that we shall get the great man’s intentions out of him. Unless the decision is evacuation there will be a turn-up in the Government as a good many of them were very angry at Monro’s recommendation to clear out not being accepted after he had been sent out with a free hand. By latest news we have frightened the French as to their position up the Vardar valley with the possibility of the Greeks turning nasty and they are inclined to come back out of that, which will be a good thing.

The new plan of a War Council of reasonable dimensions with the sailor-0mean and us properly represented is a great step in advance and the General Staff gets quite a good look in and is listened to. The Government are now told the truth and they quite like it. Archie Murray deserves great credit for pulling things together. I have now got in Bird as Sub-Director in charge of MOI, which takes a lot of work off my hands. Buckley going off with K has been a great nuisance to me as he was my right hand man in many things, but one rubs along somehow and I suppose he will turn up again some time.

We have no idea whether K will return to the War Office. Nobody in it wishes to see him back and I do not think that anybody in the Government does either – even such mighty opposites as “Lulu” and Lloyd George are agreed upon that point. But the Public have implicit belief in him and he may prove a little difficult to definitely shelve.

I hope that you are keeping very fit and are finding adequate outlet for your inexhaustible energy.

Yours ever
Chas E Callwell

Meanwhile Ralph’s proposals for books to be sent from Scotland to the Dardanelles was bearing enthusiastic fruit. (more…)

The War Office is “bearing up” in the absence of Kitchener

General Callwell shared the latest top secret information with Ralph Glyn. Lord Kitchener had been unconvinced by the report in favour of withdrawal from the Dardanelles, and was set to inspect the front for himself. A junior War Office official friend also wrote to Ralph.

War Office
6th November 1915

My dear Ralph

Many thanks for your long letter of the 28th. Things have changed a good deal and you will have your friend K out with you long before you get this.

He is all for hanging on or doing something at Gallipoli. The Government and War Council are all for accepting Monro’s recommendation and clearing out while there is yet time. I do not know how things will pan out when K gets out and he has been blarneying the French while in Paris, but I doubt if he has got much change out of the really. We are bearing up under his departure. He will not come back here. I expect that Carson, Lloyd George or Austin will be War Minister – the first I hope. Henry Wilson is over here on leave and in his element intriguing with all these politicians.

Mind you get Birdwood to send on an application of yours to get back from the Reserve. I wrote to Bell about this but as he is off to Salonika that will not work. Applications must come from FM Ex Force or from COG Medforce.

Yrs
Chas E Callwell

War Office
Whitehall
SW
6th Nov 1915
My dear Glyn

Great excitement yesterday about Lord K’s rumoured resignation. It was actually in our edition of the evening paper, and then contradicted. He has now disappeared for 3 weeks and Asquith has reappeared in the War Office.

I hope you are well and have a fairly comfortable dug-out, if you are still in Gallipoli.

Yrs
R A Ingram


Letters to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C24)

“Blow the Turks to blazes – then give it them again”

General Callwell wrote to Ralph Glyn to inform him about the appointment of Sir Charles Monro to review the Dardanelles campaign with a view to possible withdrawal. Callwell had some ideas of his own about booby trapping the deserted trenches.

War Office

23rd October 1915

My dear Ralph

Your new Chief and his CGS, Belinda, went off yesterday and will have reached the Dardanelles some days before this does. I did not see them at the end before they went, which I am sorry for as there were several things to tell them. I meant to have spoken to Bell about you among other things and about George Lloyd, but have written to him by this bag on these and other subjects.

It will be most interesting to hear their verdict. Sir Ian [Hamilton] and Braithwaite arrived last night but I have not seen them yet. Monro clearly did not like the job as he saw it on paper, but he may like it better on the spot. It will be up to him to decide whether to go ahead, to hang on, or to clear out, and if he decides on the latter he will have to make preparations at once.
I am not a scientific body, but if I was going to retreat from such a position I should insist upon having the stuff for mines – the explosives and the wire and the batteries – on a Homeric scale. And I would blow the Turks to blazes if they tried to come into my trenches when I left them – a mine to every 10 yards and power to touch them off alternately. It would be no good to fire all your mines and have them coming on in a quarter of an hour and manning the craters. You want to be able to give it them again.

Also if I was going to quit at night I should expect the warships to stop the enemy firing by giving searchlight to any extent. At a place like Anzac the enemy on the top of the bluff could be absolutely blinded and the lights that were doing this would at the same time be affording, below their direct rays, just enough light to the troops embarking for them to see what they were doing. However Monro may decide to go on with the business.

Political affairs here are very unsettled. I think about the only thing the Cabinet are agreed in is their desire to unship K. Carson is a great loss and it will be very difficult for them to hang together much longer. I do not think that you will have lost much by not going to Salonika; the Serbs are sure to be mopped up before the French and we can do anything that is any use in that quarter. The French have indeed rushed into the business very much against the wishes even of the War Council, which is capable of almost any folly.
Although things look bad there is every symptom now of the Boshes [sic] becoming discouraged. The Russians terrify them in spite of their superior armament, and they have been losing very heavily in the west.

Take care of yourself and believe me
Ever yours

Chas E Callwell

Letter from General Callwell to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C24)