Wounded soldiers evacuated from Gallipoli in filthy boats. Conditions were foul.Nine and a half months into the war, no decisive military success had been registered, and public enthusiasm which overflowed in August 1914 began to wane [1] By May 1915 the protagonists had been entrenched in a stalemate on the Western Front for around six months and the Dardanelles Campaign was beginning to feel like a very costly failure. Churchill had promised that the Germans would be on their knees after  nine months of naval blockade [2] but his wild claims were exaggerated lies. How could they be otherwise? The Admiralty was nominally in charge of the tiny blockading force, the 10th Squadron, out in the North Atlantic, but it was the Foreign Office which  nullified their best efforts to deny Germany the key resources for war. Behind the backs of the British people, in blatant defiance of the will of the British Parliament and widely accepted international law, ‘the process of stopping ships that were carrying contraband … was completely undermined by influences inside the British Foreign Office through an invention called the Contraband Committee.’ [3] It was part of a greater lie to dupe the populace into believing that war was being pursued by every possible means. It was not.

Failure risks accountability, but it is rare indeed that the real culprits are ever brought to trial. Mismanagement on the battlefield was glossed over by loud support in the newspapers for Sir John French, Sir Henry Wilson and General Haig. There were however, politicians who could be replaced without any appreciable detriment to the cause of war. To Lord Milner and his Secret Elite cabal, the management of the war lay in the hands of hapless party politicians. Asquith, Grey and Haldane had certainly delivered the war on Germany, but the other liberals inside the Cabinet had no idea how a war should be effectively pursued. We have repeatedly shown that the Secret Elite were contemptuous of the British parliamentary system and held an absolute belief that elected democratic government was no alternative to the ‘rule of the superiors’. [4] They meant, of course, themselves.

Milner during Boer War posing with his friend Lord Roberts and many officers whose career he helped advance.

Milner knew what was needed; he had managed a successful war in South Africa, a war he deliberately caused while making it appear that the Boers were the perpetrators [5] The war against Germany had to be managed. Ultimate victory in a long and punishing conflict had to be properly planned. Manpower had to be organised and one of the problems caused by Kitchener’s success was that voluntary enlistment disrupted many essential industries. The international financiers would provide the money and in the long term such loans would have to be repaid. International armaments combines would provide the weapons of destruction at huge cost, and that too would require financial commitment beyond the scope of previous ministries. This would take time to deliver.

Advised as he was by the City money-men in London, and linked to the New York bankers through Morgan/Grenfell/Rothschild, David Lloyd George was the only member of Asquith’s government who agreed that a new kind of management was required. As he put it, ‘the war was not being treated either with sufficient seriousness or adequate energy.’ [6] What these platitudes actually meant was that he considered himself the serious and energetic leader who was prepared to front the Secret Elite’s drive to destroy Germany in the manner they approved … providing he was in charge of the government. Lloyd George did not lack conceit. Strong control over all aspects of the conflict was the prerequisite for success, and the only success the Secret Elite were interested in was the total destruction of Germany. While they were set on a prolonged war, they needed to find scapegoats.

Parliamentary government was not geared to war. Ministers guarded their departments like fiefdoms, refusing to share knowledge or give detailed explanations of their strategies to either House of Parliament. Communications were hampered by an over-exaggerated ‘need to know’. Kitchener had spoken in the House of Lords on only 34 occasions between 1914-16 [7] making ‘Olympian pronouncements upon military policy’. [8] In other words he appeared to make pronouncements like one of the ancient gods without expecting to be subjected to any questions.

1916: Field Marshal, Lord Kitchener (1850 - 1916), at the Paris Conference.

Kitchener was a law unto himself. He did not trust the discretion of most of Asquith’s cabinet, claiming that they were ‘leaky’, and added, ‘if they will only divorce their wives … I will tell them everything.’ [9] He had cause to be cautious. The prime minister’s wife Margot was a notorious gossip in London society and Asquith’s intimate relationship with the much younger Venetia Stanley was completely out of order. He wrote to her daily, sometimes twice a day, and confided information of such sensitivity that his indiscretion broke every law on secrecy in wartime. [10]

Parliament averaged only 8 meetings per month in the first nine months of the war. [11] That was bad enough, but the War Council, the select group of senior ministers and their military and naval advisors was not established until the end of November 1914. Although it comprised the Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey, The Chancellor, Lloyd George and its increasingly influential secretary, Maurice Hankey, an unexpected anomaly had ‘evolved’. The Army was directly represented by the Secretary of State for War and Commander-in-Chief, Lord Kitchener, while the Navy, the much revered ‘senior service’, was represented by a politician, Winston Churchill.

In the five and a half weeks between 6 April and 14 May 1915,  the War Council was not convened. It was as if leadership was ‘in a coma’. [12] Consider the events that took place over that timescale;  [13] dangerous reversals on the Eastern Front, the Second Battle of Ypres, Allied landings at Gallipoli, the sinking of the Lusitania and the publication of the highly prejudicial, anti-German propaganda report from Lord Bryce on ‘atrocities’ in Belgium. [14] Yet there was apparently no need for a meeting of the War Council? Who was in charge? At times it appeared that the answer was no-one but do not be fooled. Beyond the scope of the officially elected government powerful men continued to pursue their long-term objectives and the person whose influence was most telling at this juncture was Viscount Alfred Milner.

Milner [15] stood at the head of a mighty and resourceful network of secret intelligence. Politicians, academics, industrialists, soldiers, journalists and newspaper editors wrote to him to ensure that he knew about their grievances. The reader should be aware that after the crisis in Ulster in 1914, [16] the men who led the British army did not trust the Prime Minister [17] but held Lord Milner in the highest esteem.

Senior army officers wrote to him confidentially and told him their highly suspect version of the ‘truth’ about the desperate state of the war as it progressed. General Sir Henry Wilson had crossed to France on 14 August 1914 as a key member of General Sir John French’s GHQ and within a week was complaining about the  ‘cowardly ignorance’ of his superiors in London. Lord Roberts complained to Milner that the army command was disjointed. Geoffrey Dawson, editor of The Times, kept him informed about all manner of events that could not be officially reported because of censorship. Leo Amery, Milner’s most ardent acolyte, wrote to him from France and from Lemnos during the Gallipoli campaign, ensuring that he knew more about the failings of the British Army than any member of Asquith’s government, except, perhaps, Kitchener. [18]

David Lloyd George by 1915 was a self-serving agent of the Secret Elite.

From March till the end of May 1915, there was a buzz of intrigue around Westminster. Lloyd George wrote that a fear was growing in the corridors of power  ‘that we could lose the war’, [19] though he above all knew that too much had already been invested by the American Establishment to allow such a disaster. Britain was never at risk of losing the war. Indeed, as we have demonstrated, a range of cleverly contrived arrangements allowed Germany to survive the so-called ‘blockade’ and enabled her to continue her military-industrial output. Lloyd George voiced what the Secret Elite believed the problem to be; a crisis of commitment to war. Most of his colleagues had no stomach for it. They had to go.

Milner knew that serious pressure had to be put on the Asquith government to shake out those ministers whose commitment to a prolonged war was suspect. But he was not yet prepared to lead the opposition publicly. [20] That was not his style. What was wanted was a government with the courage to break away from the laissez-faire attitude to enable greater control of the entire war effort to be given to men who would take his instruction. The Secret Elite knew that victory in a protracted struggle depended on the most efficient exploitation of the resources and manpower of the country. The answer lay in taking over government departments.

While those above him in the corridors and smoke-filled clubs for the privileged pushed for key changes in government, Lloyd George was the only Cabinet member convinced of this necessity. [21] Four years before, in 1910, he had shown himself willing to work in coalition with the Conservatives [22] and, in conjunction with Arthur Balfour, had openly accepted the value of compulsory military service. These were words close to Lord Milner’s heart. He and the former Commander in Chief, Field Marshal Lord Roberts, had argued for many years in favour of  conscription as a much more effective way of providing a professional army. Once more, the word ‘coalition’ was being secretly whispered in the select private clubs frequented by the real power-brokers. Some even called it a  ‘National Government’.

Historians have repeatedly analysed the events of May 1915 and concluded that the political crisis ‘arose with extra-ordinary suddenness’ as if to suggest that by some strange mixture of expediency and good fortune, Asquith’s government was transformed overnight into an all-party alliance. The great historical guru of the 1960s, A.J.P. Taylor, claimed that the emergence of a ‘National Government’ was  ‘one of the few political episodes of the First World War on which solid evidence is lacking’. [23] These are words which should raise alarm. If evidence is lacking, it is because it has been destroyed. Experience proves that to be fact. Lloyd George’s verdict was that ‘political crises never come out of the blue’, and he knew precisely what was going on. [24] Asquith’s government was teetering towards collapse because the old-fashioned Liberals did not have the necessary backbone to see a prolonged war through to its end. Circumstances at home provided the cover to manipulate the change.

Fisher (Right) and Churchill in happier times.Admiral Jackie Fisher, whom Churchill had brought from retirement to become First Sea Lord resigned his post over the Dardanelles fiasco. He believed that vital warships were exposed to unnecessary danger in this theatre of operations. Fisher was beside himself with rage at Churchill whom he called ‘a mad gambler’. [25] The Conservative party in parliament hated Winston Churchill whom they regarded as a turn-coat in politics and an amateur in war. [26] They had a point. On 17 May 1915, Andrew Bonar Law, the Conservative leader, met secretly with Lloyd George at the Treasury. They had been personal friends for years and according to the Chancellor, on friendlier terms ‘than is usual between political adversaries …’ [27] Lloyd George received the proposal to form a national government with open arms. When confronted by this united front, Asquith caved in and made no attempt to stand his ground and defend his cabinet. Why? Many have tried to find a suitable answer. He had been emotionally upset by Venetia Stanley’s sudden split from him … an unexpected turn of events in itself. Was he ordered to accept the inevitable given the formidable combination of the second minister in his government joining forces with the leader of the Opposition?

A convergence of military, naval and political embarrassment had to find public redress. Milner knew that the government had to be firmed up, be resolved to see through unpopular crises, and take greater direction from his Secret Elite agents. The days wasted on propping up the sham of democracy were numbered. Yet ridding the government of it’s deadwood faced the Secret Elite with a difficult quandary. Changes had to be managed carefully. The public had to believe that this was what they wanted. Should opinion turn against the war and muted cries in favour of peace gain support, Germany would not be crushed. Victory was meaningless unless it broke German industrial and economic power. This wasn’t about winning a battle but destroying an enemy.

But which enemy? Churchill? Yes, he was despised by the Conservatives in parliament, and the newspapers had begun to question his judgement. Kitchener? Yes, but his national status placed him above criticism, and the army had to be supported at all costs. Asquith? Not so easy. To sack him would have thrown the government and possibly the country into chaos. Above all, the genuine unwitting liberals who had accepted their role in government, but who had no great enthusiasm for war, had to be wiped out. Democracy would be dismantled and what better way to start the process than under the guise of national unity?

[1] Alfred Gollin, Freedom or Control in the First World War,  (The Great Crisis of May 1915)  Historical Reflections, Vol. 2, no. 2, Winter 1975, pp. 135-155.
[2] The Times, 10 November 1914.
[3] George F.S. Bowles, The Strength of England, p. 173.
[4] Gerry Docherty and Jim Macgregor, Hidden History, The Secret Origins of the First World War, pp. 55-6.
[5] Thomas Pakenham, The Boer War p. 115.
[6] Lloyd George, War Memoirs of David Lloyd George, p. 133.
[7] http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/people/mr-horatio-kitchener/1914
[8] A.M. Gollin, Proconsul in Politics, p. 249.
[9] Stephen Roskill, Hankey, Man of Secrets, vol 1, 1877-1918, p. 216.
[10] Michael and Eleanor Brock, H H Asquith, Letters to Venetia Stanley. A typical example may be found on page 266 where he discloses the position of Sir Henry Rawlinson’s troops on the road to Bruges and Ghent before sharing Kitchener’s thoughts on an impending stalemate.
[11] http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/sittings/1914/
[12] Lloyd George, War Memoirs, p. 134.
[13] http://www.firstworldwar.com/timeline/1915.htm
[14] See blogs published 3 and 10 September 2014.
[15] Alfred Milner’s power base is best explained in Carroll Quigley, The Anglo-American Establishment, pp. 84-88.
[16] Docherty and Macgregor, Hidden History,  pp. 301-319.
[17] Gollin, Proconsul in Politics, p. 251.
[18] Letters from these correspondents are included in what remains of the much-culled Milner papers at the Bodleian Library (special section) at Oxford.
[19] Lloyd George, War Memoirs, p. 133.
[20] Gollin, Proconsul in Politics, pp. 251-2 .
[21] A.J.P. Taylor, Lloyd George, Rise and Fall, p. 23.
[22] John Grigg, Lloyd George, The People’s Champion, pp. 362-8.
[23] A.J.P. Taylor, English History, 1914-1945, p. 31.
[24] Lloyd George, War Memoirs, p. 133.
[25] Roskill, Hankey, Man of Secrets, p. 174.
[26] Gollin, Proconsul in Politics, p. 258.
[27] Lloyd George, War Memoirs, p.135.