Most of the critical mistakes made in the original landings on Gallipoli in April were repeated in the August offensive. [1] Thousand of men were again sacrificed to little of no purpose and the commanding heights of the peninsula remained in the hands of the Turkish defenders. The attack at Lone Pine alone cost the Australian force 2,000 dead. General William Birdwood had taken command of the Anzacs in December 1914, but his confidence was not backed by military success. Like other contemporary senior commanders, Birwood failed to understand the debilitating effect of dysentery and other illnesses on his Anzac troops [2] and as a consequence lost more than 10,000 men. The horrors were repeated. Thousands of wounded were left for days under a scorching sun without water. [3] Bloated and rotting corpses lay everywhere and the stench of death sickened the living. When it seemed that the horrors of Gallipoli couldn’t possibly get any worse, hundreds of wounded men on the slopes of Scimitar Hill were condemned to an agonising death, unable to escape the flames of a raging grass fire. War correspondent Ashmead-Bartlett wrote, ‘When the fire passed on, little mounds of scorched khaki alone marked the spot where another mismanaged soldier of the King had returned to mother earth.’ [4] These lads were denied the glorious, noble death for civilisation concocted in the post-war era to justify their slaughter. Sick, wounded and abandoned, betrayed by hapless commanders, they were sacrificed without remorse.

Anzac wounded being stretchered to the beach

Throughout August the surviving troops continued to suffer from dysentery or a virulent form of paratyphoid. Hardly anyone escaped. Eventually, more than a thousand sick and dying men were evacuated on a daily basis. [5] The Anzacs, who had arrived in peak physical condition, shrank before their commanders’ eyes, thin and gaunt with sunken cheeks. The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps was ‘melting away through disease at the appalling rate of 10 per cent per week,’ and nearly 80 per cent of the Allied troops on the Peninsula suffered from debilitating sickness. When GHQ offered advice on steps to be taken to avoid the infestation of flies, an embittered Australian doctor responded that he ‘might as well have spat on a bushfire.’ [6] At the end of August, Captain Aspinall reported that Allied casualties totalled 89,000 and Turkish morale had risen. [7] It was a different story for the commanders. Hunter-Weston had returned to England to nurse his dysentery, and the bungling Stopford was relieved of his duties and sent home.

Maurice Hankey, Secretary to the War Council, member of the Secret Elite [8] and the man who originally conjured the mission, was sent out to Gallipoli to gather ‘first hand information’. He held the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel and was given a ‘very unusual’ directive from the Prime Minister to go wherever he wanted and be at liberty to report directly to Downing Street. Before Hankey left London, Kitchener reassured him that he did not intend to allow the army to advance on Constantinople even if they were victorious on the peninsula. [9] It was a stunning admission, a clear indication of the true nature of the campaign of which Hankey was aware. From the outset the stated objective had allegedly been to take control of the Straits and seize Constantinople on behalf of the Russians. It was not. Constantinople was never to be handed to Russia. Tens of thousands of men had been, and continued to be sacrificed for a political lie. What mattered was that the Russians believed it.

Troops in the open at Suvla Bay

Hankey arrived at Lemnos on 25 July and spent three weeks on conducted tours. He watched the disaster of Suvla Bay unfold much as Nero watched Rome burn. On 14 August he telegrammed the Prime Minister and Kitchener that the ‘surprise’ attack had ‘definitely failed. … Already enemy is entrenching within 3,000 yards of Suvla Bay.’ [10] Were these coded messages? There could have been no surprise attacks. The Turks were well entrenched, dug-in deep like the Germans on the Western Front. Every piece of evidence that Hankey had to hand stated explicitly that only a joint naval and military attack with legions of men, had any chance of success. Even his phraseology, ‘definitely failed’ carried no element of disappointment or surprise. It was exactly as expected.

While hovering around the Gallipoli shores, observing and recording the ongoing tragedy for a very select audience, Hankey made contact with a number of old acquaintances. Foremost amongst these was Major Guy Payan Dawnay, a member of Hamilton’s general staff at Gallipoli. Dawnay spent three years working with Hankey on the Committee of Imperial Defence and served in the War Office from September 1914 until March 1915. [11] With such close and direct association with both Hankey and Kitchener, it seems fair to speculate that Dawnay had been sent to keep a careful watch on Sir Ian Hamilton on their behalf.

Poor Hamilton was more than naive in his assessment of Maurice Hankey whom he welcomed into his headquarters ‘as a real help’. Hamilton believed that the Secretary to the War Council and close confidant of the Prime Minister would set the record straight. ‘From my personal standpoint, it will be worth anything to us if, amidst the flood of false gossip pouring out by this very mail to our Dardanelles Committee, to the Press, to Egypt and to London Drawing Rooms, we have sticking up out of it, even one little rock in the shape of an eye-witness.’ [12] He was to be sorely disappointed.

Hankey painted by William Orpen

Hankey returned home via Athens, where he had long discussions with Sir Valentine Chirol, a member of the Secret Elite [13] and an ‘old friend’, Admiral Mark Kerr. [14] Kerr had played an important role in enabling the Goeben and Breslau to reach the safety of the Dardanelles at the outbreak of war. [15] Both men were deeply involved in Foreign Office intrigues in the Balkans, where the future involvement of Greece and Bulgaria in the war still lay in the balance.

When Hankey reached London on 28 August he had sufficient first hand evidence to recommend that a pretext be found for a withdrawal from Gallipoli. The chances of ‘a reasonable prospect of achieving success’ depended on a heavy investment in men and equipment, exactly as Sir Ian Hamilton had repeatedly requested, but Kitchener had refused. In a ‘very secret’ part of his report he wrote that, ‘ The Government may well ask themselves whether they are justified in continuing a campaign which makes so tremendous a toll on the country in human life and material resources.’ [16] Other options were completely unpalatable; there could be no repeat of the naval attack or an embarrassing diplomatic arrangement with Turkey and Russia. [17]

Maurice Hankey, who had originally brought the idea of an attack on the Dardanelles to the War Council for ulterior motives, knew by the end of August 1915 that the ploy had worked. Four Russian Officers had witnessed the Sulva Bay landings and informed Hamilton that his actions had saved the whole Army of the Caucuses, ‘and the Grand Duke knew it.’ They added that the Czar ‘ bitterly regretted’ that lack of supplies had prevented his army corps from ‘standing by to help.’ [18]. Russia remained committed to the war in the belief that Britain had sacrificed tens of thousands of men in a gallant effort to capture Constantinople on her behalf. It was job done. Next step was to arranged a strategic withdrawal, and ensure that a sacrificial scapegoat was prepared.

Guy Payan Dawnay who betrayed HamiltonThe man responsible for creating that scapegoat was Maurice Hankey though he was careful to conceal his role from the public domain. As ever, the Secret Elite used others to do their dirty work. Shortly after speaking with Hankey, Major Guy Dawnay left Gallipoli for London. General Hamilton harboured a misplaced trust in Dawnay who had convinced him that someone had to go and put the case for reinforcements directly to the government. Kitchener had remained deaf to Hamilton’s pleas and rumours of exaggerated military success were proving counter-productive. Dawnay was the true viper in Hamilton’s nest. A friend of the royal family and Prime Minister Asquith, Major Dawnay had access usually restricted to high-ranking members of the Secret Elite. On his arrival in London he was treated in a manner no other had enjoyed.

He told his story of Gallipoli incompetence to the King, and was permitted to present an unexpurgated analysis to Cabinet. It was, as the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography recorded, ‘exceptional for a young staff officer to advise ministers to overrule his own C-I-C.’ [19] His audience included Asquith, Lloyd George, Bonar Law, Curzon and ‘just about everybody else with influence’. [20] Sir Ian Hamilton was being set-up to take the blame for the failure of the Gallipoli Campaign and as the case against him gathered pace in London, one final twist of the knife was to come from an unexpected source which would deflect attention from the secret cabal.

[1] Robert Rhodes James, Gallipoli, p. 222.
[2] Robert Rhodes James, ‘Birdwood, William Riddell, first Baron Birdwood (1865–1951)’, ref. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online May 2009 [
[3] Edmond Delage, The Tragedy of the Dardanelles, pp. 216-7.
[4] Michael Hickey, Gallipoli, p. 319.
[5] Delage, The Tragedy, p. 222.
[6]  James, Gallipoli, p. 222.
[7] Tim Travers, Gallipoli,p. 273.
[8] Carroll Quigley, The Anglo-American Establishment, p 313.
[9] Stephen Roskill, Hankey, p. 189.
[10] Ibid., pp. 198-9.
[11] Dawnay had been a student at the Staff College at Camberley. His imperialist credentials were celebrated in his co-founding the Chatham Dining Club in 1910, [Richard Davenport-Hines, ‘Dawnay, Guy Payan (1878–1952)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; ] a seed-bed for those who shared the Secret Elite philosophy of British Race supremacy. Guest speakers between 1910 and 1914 included many of the most senior members of the Secret Elite including Leo Amery, Robert Brand, William Waldergrave Palmer, Earl of Selborne, Walter Long and George Lloyd. Maurice Hankey was amongst the first club members.
[12] General Sir Ian Hamilton, Gallipoli Diary, Vol.II, chapter XVII, 19 August 1915.
[13]  Quigley, The Anglo-American Establishment, p. 313.
[14] Roskill, Hankey, p. 204.
[15] See Gallipoli Blog 4. Fumbling Incompetence…And Too Few Stokers
[16] National Archives PRO CAB 42/3.
[17] Roskill, Hankey, p. 207.
[18] General Sir Ian Hamilton, Gallipoli Diary, Vol.II, chapter XVII, 30 August 1915.
[19] Richard Davenport-Hines, Dawnay, Guy Payan (1878–1952), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004.
[20] John Laffin, The Agony of Gallipoli, p. 189.