The Great Coup of 1916: 4 The Monday Night Cabal

Herbert Asquith, prime minister from 1908-1916

Asquith’s Coalition government of May 1915 changed little in terms of Britain’s war management. It was hardly likely to given that it was a basic reshuffle of old faces and older politics. Alfred Milner was well aware that this would be the case, and as such, it suited the Secret Elite to bide their time before catapulting their leader into front-line politics. Milner was initially stirred into action over Asquith’s inability to make clear decisions, and criticised the ‘contradictions and inconsistencies which have characterised our action as a nation’ [1] He began to turn the screw on the prime minister in the House of Lords early in 1916 and Sir Edward Carson did likewise in the Commons.[2] Carson had originally been the protege of Alfred Balfour, and was a fellow member of the Secret Elite. It did not take long for the unnatural coalition of conservatives and liberals to unravel inside the Cabinet.

Within the context of 1916, the British nation had no respite from disaster. The Somme [ref] produced heavy losses made more unpalatable by negligible gains. In the War Committee, Curzon and Balfour waged a bitter and prolonged inter-departmental dispute over the future of the Air Board [3] to the detriment of other critical business. Without Kitchener, the General Staff appeared complacent and Maurice Hankey feared the generals were ‘bleeding us to death’. [4] He warned Lloyd George that the British Army was led by ‘the most conservative class in the world, forming the most powerful trades union in the world’ [5] It was an astute observation. The Staff ‘ring’ ( and these were Hankey’s words) which had been brought together under the pre-war influence of Milner’s great ally, and former head of the Army, Lord Roberts, [6] was indeed a closed union of former cavalry officers, so self satisfied and complacent that they ignored the views of others. [7] Whatever the obscene consequences of their mistakes, they continued to repeat them with the arrogance of those who are convinced that they know better.

Confirmed in their view that the democratic process had failed to provide the leadership and organisation which was needed to win the war on their terms, Milner and the Secret Elite began the process of completely undermining the government and replacing it with their own agents. In January 1916 a small group of Milner’s closest friends and disciples formed a very distinctive and secret cabal to prepare the nation for a change so radical, that it was nothing less than a coup; a planned take-over of government by men who sought to impose their own rule rather than seek a mandate from the general public. [8] Having ensured that the war was prolonged, they now sought to ensure that it would be waged to the utter destruction of Germany.

Waldorf and Nancy Astor: both identified by Carroll Quigley as members of Milner's cabal.

The men behind the carefully constructed conspiracy were Alfred Milner, Leo Amery, Sir Edward Carson, Geoffrey Dawson, editor of The Times, F S Oliver the influential writer who believed that war was a necessity, [9] and Waldorf Astor, the owner of The Observer. They met regularly on Monday evenings to formulate their alternative plans for war management over dinner. These men were drawn from the inner-circle of Milner’s most trusted associates. [10] Others who were invited to join them included, Lloyd George, Sir Henry Wilson, (at that point a corps commander on the Western Front) Philip Kerr, another of Milner’s proteges from his days in South Africa, and Sir Leander Starr Jameson, the man who almost brought down the British government in 1896 in the wake of his abortive raid on the Transvaal. [11] Could anyone have anticipated that Jameson would have reemerged in London inside a very powerful conspiracy some twenty years after he had almost blown Cecil Rhode’s dream apart? [12] But then he was always the servant of the mighty South African arm of the Secret Elite.

On the rare occasions that this clique has been mentioned by historians, it is usually referred to as a ‘Ginger Group’. Yet another veneer of deception. Their objective was not to spice up the opposition to Herbert Asquith but to rule in his place. It was, as Alfred Milner’s biographer put it, a very powerful fellowship devoid of party hacks and faceless civil servants, [13] Carson, still the hero of Ulster Unionists, was the foremost of the Tory critics in the House of Commons; Dawson at The Times was probably the most influential journalist in the Empire and had the full backing of its owner, Lord Northcliffe; Astor’s Observer added hugely valuable weight to Milner’s battalions in the press; Oliver was fanatical in his disdain of grovelling peacemakers. He proposed that the whole nation rather than the armed forces must be conscripted. [14]

Viscount Alfred Milner, the undisputed leader of the Monday Night Cabal.

Alfred Milner was the undisputed leader of this ‘Monday Night Cabal’. [15 ] The agenda notes for one of the meetings in February demonstrated clearly that they planned to demolish the widely held notion that there was no alternative to a combination of Asquith and Bonar Law. Their solution was to repeat ‘in season and out of season’ that the current coalition was having a paralytic effect on the conduct of the war and it was absurd to believe that there was no alternative. [16] They were the alternative.

Here we find one of the few examples of precisely how the Secret Elite worked to influence and dominate British politics. The cabal comprised the key players at the core of the opposition to Asquith. They instructed their supporters and agents to lobby both inside and outside parliament for the policies that were determined over their private dinners. The rank and file were never invited to these exclusive gatherings which remained the preserve of the select. [17] A second assault-route was through the press, whose influential leaders were also at the heart of the Monday Night Cabal. Public opinion had to be turned against the Asquith coalition. One of he most successful influences which the Secret Elite still wield is the power to make the public believe that they want the changes expounded by a corrupted press.

Geoffrey Dawson led the attack from his lofty office at The Times. Instructed in the Milnerite catechism of Coalition failure, his editorials began the campaign to champion Alfred Milner into high office without the niceties of a political mandate. On 14 April his leading article was the first salvo in that offensive:

‘ Let there be no mistake about it. What the country want is leaders who are not afraid to go to all lengths or undergo also sacrifices, party or personal, in order to win the war… We believe that in Lord Milner they possess yet another leader whose courage and character are needed in a national crisis. It is a most damning indictment of the coalition, and especially of those Unionist leaders who had a free hand to strengthen its composition, that such a man should be out of harness at such a time.’ [18]

A J Balfour, an inner-circle member of Milner's Secret Elite. His position in Cabinet was safeguarded by his allegiance to the cabal.

The plot which had been carefully constructed over months of detailed planning was promoted in a series of newspaper editorials which advanced Milner’s intentions. Their new mantra was that change was needed; change was vital to save the country from disaster. But not everyone would be sacrificed. No. Not at all. What was proposed was far more subtle. They proposed that the Secret Elite’s chosen men in Cabinet ( Balfour etc.) needed the support of a more organised system (behind them) and there was ‘no reason whatsoever why they should not continue…’. However, those who had served their purpose, who ‘were encrusted in the old party habit, worn out … by a period of office which has lasted continuously in some cases for more than a decade … are a sheer danger to the State.’ [19] Translated into personalities their targets were Herbert Asquith, Sir Edward Grey, Lord Lansdowne, Walter Runciman and the remnants of the original Liberal government.

Dawson rampaged against the ‘weak methods’ and ‘weak men’ who were failing the country. Unresolved problems of man-power, of food control and food production, of conflict over the output of aircraft and merchant ships were attributed to a system where, according to the clique, the country was being governed by a series of debating societies. He was disgusted that the War Committee had reverted back to the old habits of ‘interminable memoranda’ and raged about the impossibility of heads of great departments having additional collective responsibility for correlating all of the work of a war government. Every design which the Monday Night Cabal had agreed was promoted by Dawson at The Times.

Popular newspapers ensured that their message was unrelenting. Tom Clarke, then editor of the Daily Mail wrote in his diaries that he was instructed by Northcliffe in December 1916 to undermine the Prime Minister. He was told to find a smiling picture of Lloyd George and underneath it put the caption, “ Do it Now” and get the worst possible picture of Asquith and label it, “ Wait and See”. [20] It was to be billed as if it was Action-Man against the ditherer.

The major beneficiary from the conclusions of the Monday Night Cabal was David Lloyd George. Since the day he was given his first government post as President of the Board of Trade in 1905, Lloyd George had pursued his career with the singular intention of rising to the top. His firebrand oratory which made him a champion of the people not matched by his machiavellian self interest. While basking in the credit for providing pensions in old age, he befriended the leaders of industry, the bankers and financiers in the City, the money-men in New York and newspaper owners like Northcliffe and Max Aitken. (Lord Beaverbrook) The Secret Elite had identified Lloyd George many years before [21] as the man most likely to front popular appeal for their policies, but his negotiations between the conspirators in 1916 had to be carried out well away from prying eyes.

Arthue Lee, later Viscount Farnham. later he gifted Chequers as the country residence for the British prime minister

They chose Arthur Lee [22] as the facilitator for many of the secret meetings between Lloyd George, Maurice Hankey, Alfred Milner and Geoffrey Dawson at Lee’s house in the Abbey Garden at Westminster. [23] An opponent of Lloyd George in previous times, Lee had married into the New-York financial elite and his wife Ruth inherited a substantial fortune. He was a close friend of Theodore Roosevelt with whom he corresponded frequently. [24] Lee had apparently become increasingly frustrated with the conduct of the war by the Asquith government and sought out David Lloyd George as the one member of the government whom he considered had ‘sufficient courage and dynamic energy … to insist upon things being done’ [25]. Note how Lee offered his services to Lloyd George who invited him into the Ministry of Munitions as parliamentary military secretary. Later, in his War Memoirs, Lloyd George went out of his way to praise Lee’s ‘untiring industry, great resource, and practical capacity’,[26] without mentioning his role as co-conspirator in Asquith’s removal.

On Lloyd George’s move to the War Office, Lee became his personal secretary. He was also a member of the Unionist war committee which acted as a focus of back-bench opposition to the Asquith coalition in 1916. [27] Whether he was aware of it or not, the Secret Elite ensured that Arthur Lee was well placed to watch over Lloyd George in the critical months leading up to the coup.

Safe from prying eyes, the conspirators drew an ever compliant Lloyd George to the centre of their web. His closest aide ensured that they could contact him with ease without rousing the suspicion of mere mortals. They organised their policies, decided their tactics and picked their chosen men. The Secret Elite were poised to take over the governance of the war and run it along their lines, but the old order had to be removed. As ever with Alfred Milner, he required his opponent, in this instance, Asquith, to make the first unforgivable mistake.

[1] Hansard, House of Lords Debate, 20 December 1915 vol 20 cc696-744.
[2] A M Gollin, Proconsul in Politics, p. 320.
[3] Memorandum for the War Committee, Doc. 658, November 1916 and Reply to The First Report of the Air Board, Doc.658, November 1916 in Cabinet Memoranda 1905-1918, vol. IV, F.O. 899.
[4] Maurice Hankey, Diary entry 28th October 1916, quoted in Stephen Roskill, Hankey: Man of Secrets, p. 312.]
[5] Ibid.
[6] For a detailed examination of the influence which Lords Roberts exerted over the British Military Establishment see Gerry Docherty and Jim Macgregor, Hidden History, The Secret Origins of the First World War, chapter 15, The Roberts Academy, pp. 194-203.
[7] Gollin, Hankey, p. 313.
[8] Ibid., pp. 323-4.
[9] F. S. Oliver , Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, author, Richard Davenport-Hines.
[10] Alfred Milner, Leo Amery, Philip Kerr, Waldorf Astor and Geoffrey Dawson were specifically placed inside what Carroll Quigley called The Society of the Elect in his work, The Anglo-American Establishment, while Leander Starr Jameson was placed in the outer circle. [pp. 311-313.] We have enlarged the group under the collective title of the Secret Elite. [
[11] Thomas Pakenham, The Boer War, Prologue, pp. 1-5.
[12] Sentenced to fifteen months imprisonment for his involvement in the infamous Jameson Raid, he served barely three before being pardoned. His career flourished thereafter. From 1904-1908 Jameson was prime minister of the Cape Colony. He returned to England in 1912 and remained one of Alfred Milner’s trusted confidantes.
[13] Gollin, Hankey, p. 324.
[14] Davenport-Hines, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. See above.
[15] It is often interesting to consider the manner in which historians entitle events. In A.M. Collin’s Proconsul in Politics, he boldly christened Milner’s group as The Monday Night Cabal – which it certainly was, while Terence O’Brien, in his work, Milner, stepped away from controversy by calling it the Monday Night Group, thus omitting any hint of conspiracy. [Terence O’Brien, Milner, p. 266.]
[16] Amery Papers, “Notes for Monday’s Meeting, 19th February 1916.”
[17] Gollin, Hankey, p. 325.
[18] The Times, 14 April, 1916, p. 9.
[19] The Times, 1 December 1916, p. 9.
[20] Tom Clarke, My Northcliffe Diary, p.107.
[21] Docherty and Macgregor, Hidden History, chapter 12, Catch a Rising Star, pp. 161-171.
[22] Later Viscount Lee of Farnham. Typical of many Secret Elite associates, his loyalty was rewarded with political appointments including Director General of Food Production from 1917-18, President of the Board of Agriculture, 1919-21 and first Lord of the Admiralty, 1921-22. He donated Chequers, still the country residence of British prime ministers, for that purpose.
[23] Gollin, Hankey, p. 348 and p. 354.
[24] A Clark, A Good Innings: the private papers of Viscount Lee of Fareham, p. 92.
[25] Ibid., p.140.
[26] David Lloyd George, War Memoirs, p. 346.
[27] V. W. Baddeley, ‘Lee, Arthur Hamilton, Viscount Lee of Fareham (1868–1947)’, rev. Marc Brodie, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

The Great Coup of 1916: 3 The Compromise Government of ‘Unity’, 1915

The given explanation for the introduction of a ‘national’ or ‘unity’ government in May 1915 goes as follows:

Andrew Bonar Law, leader of the Conservatives in 1915.

Pushed over the edge by the resignation of Lord Fisher as First Sea Lord at the Admiralty, the Conservative leader, Andrew Bonar Law met Lloyd George, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, privately, at the Treasury. Following this, he sent a letter from the Conservative Opposition to prime minister Asquith stating:

‘In our opinion things cannot go on as they are, and some change in the constitution of the Government seems to us inevitable if it is to retain a sufficient measure of public confidence to conduct the War to a successful conclusion.’ [1]

He surreptitiously sent a copy of the same letter to Lloyd George. They were clearly in cahoots. [2] Lloyd George and Bonar Law claimed a personal friendship, ‘on terms of greater cordiality than is usual’ according to the Chancellor himself. [3] In fact, Lloyd George was in agreement with the major issues raised by Bonar Law because the proposed coalition government was no threat to his own career. Their meeting and the subsequent events were more stage-managed than genuine.

What is astounding is the speed at which Asquith accepted the offer to form a coalition. Lloyd George played the role of marriage broker and physically took Bonar Law into the Cabinet Room in 10 Downing Street to talk through the conditions under which the Conservatives would join forces with the government. It took only fifteen minutes to bring to an end the last purely Liberal government in British history. Thus the deed was done. Or so we have been told.

But surely the offer was the wrong way round? To have had credence, to merit the sense of a government striving to do its best for the Empire, surely Asquith should have taken the first steps? Be mindful that a prime minister may appear to be in charge, but is always subject to the power-brokers above him / her.

Asquith trying to assert his authority in Parliament

Instead, a gun was put to his political head and he did not hesitate to capitulate. Why? Who had spoken to him? Did Lloyd George threaten to resign too, unless the coalition was formed? Or was it simply the only way for Asquith to save his own political skin? Hours later he told the King that ‘the Government must be reconstructed on a broad and non-party basis’. [4] Two days later the prime minister announced in the House of Commons ‘that steps are in contemplation which involve the reconstruction of the Government on a broader, personal and political basis.’ He clarified three points, inferring that all of this was of his own doing. He and Sir Edward Grey would definitely remain in post. The prosecution of the War would continue ‘with every possible energy and by means of every available resource.’ Finally, ‘any reconstruction that may be made will be for the purposes of the War alone…’ [5]

The first steps in the Secret Elite takeover of every aspect of war government was underway, but it had a slow-burning fuse.

Political niceties had to be followed. The main condition for ‘unity’ placed on the table by Bonar Law was the immediate demise of Winston Churchill. The Conservatives would not countenance his continuation at the Admiralty after Lord Fisher’s walk out; the Ulster Unionists would never forgive nor forget his pre-war threats to their cause and well, had he not abandoned both his class and his party by crossing over to the Liberals? During the period of horse-trading between Asquith and the Conservatives, the only certainty was, as the Times put it, that ‘Churchill will leave the Admiralty…that is virtually a sine qua non of the reconstruction.’ [6] Winston Churchill was insulted at being shunted off to the inconsequential post of Chancellor of the Dutchy of Lancaster, but he accepted the sinecure, in order to remain a member of the War Council. In the fight for the best pickings, the Conservatives had insisted that he be relegated to a minor position, and Asquith was neither willing nor able to save him. Churchill railed at Asquith for being ‘supinely weak’. He did not stay long in post, resigning on 15 November after he had been denied a place in the revised War Committee. [7]

But Asquith failed one of his best friends, Richard Haldane. It was a stain on his character that he dismissed Haldane, the man who created the BEF, whom he sent to the War Office on 4 August to initiate mobilisation, and abandoned in May 1915 ‘after one of the most discreditable smear campaigns in British history.’ [8]

Richard Haldane was a very experienced and successful politician thrown to the wolves by 'spineless' Asquith.

You might well ask why the Secret Elite were prepared to countenance the loss of two of their agents who had taken Britain into war; in this instance Churchill and Haldane? Basically, they were replaceable. All political agents no matter what their supposed allegiance, were replaceable. They still are. Churchill was a self-publicist who had upset too many important Conservatives. Haldane was an academic, a well read, knowledgeable lawyer who had the complete confidence of King Edward VII. Yet he had been subjected to malicious and ignorant abuse because of his oft-stated admiration and sympathy for Germany. [9] He found himself threatened with assault in the street, and was aware that he was in danger of being shot at. [10] Ridiculous abuse and false accusations were levelled against him by the Daily Express. [11] In an atmosphere of poison, his detractors claimed that he had ordered the release of a ship laden with copper which had been impounded in Gibraltar so that the cargo could be delivered to Germany. [12] A clever lie. Blame Haldane for blockade-bursting and cut him adrift.

What mattered was that both men were unpopular with the public, and the Secret Elite understood that every act which might make the public question the government’s actions threatened their ultimate objective.

This far-from-radical change marked the first step towards a full-blown coup, for that was not yet possible. The government (they called it a National Government) was formed over the next weeks; a government which both re-introduced well known faces and retained some old problems. Asquith’s 22-man coalition had included 12 Liberals, 8 Conservatives, a single Labour MP and Lord Kitchener, retained because of his immense popularity. Despite his support amongst the military chiefs, amongst the liberal imperialists and Conservative grandees, Alfred Milner did not join Asquith’s cabinet. Milner was of course a member of the House of Lords and an outspoken advocate for conscription rather than voluntary recruitment to the army. In truth, keeping unity amongst the coalition government was always going to test Asquith’s skills, and he would have feared Milner’s direct influence over so many in this cabinet. Alfred Milner stood ready, but waited patiently for the turning tide.

Asquith's coalition government 1915. Churchill is 4th from left;Kitchener has his back to the artist. To his immediate left is Bonar Law, with Asquith immediately in front and Lloyd George to Kitchener's right.

The unseen hand of the Elite had redrawn boundaries and ensured that senior posts were allocated to major players from Milner’s associates. [13] The Empire was back. [14] Two former Viceroys of India, Lords Curzon and Lansdowne, were elevated to cabinet posts. Lord Selborne, former High Commissioner in South Africa became President of the Board of Agriculture. Sir John Simon was made Home Secretary, Arthur Balfour replaced Churchill at the Admiralty and Lord Robert Cecil made Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and both Sir Edward Carson (the uncrowned King of Ulster) and FE Smith were included as Attorney General and Solicitor General.

What of Andrew Bonar Law, the man who had assisted Lloyd George in demanding a national government? Surely he would be well-rewarded with a senior cabinet post? Not so. Bonar Law, though leader of the Conservatives, had neither the aristocratic pedigree nor Oxford University kudos to be a member of the Inner-circle of the Secret Elite. Indeed, Professor Carroll Quigley omits him entirely from membership of secret cabal; he was not ‘one of them’. Asquith, in his later reflections on there events of December 1915 talked of the deception and lies which were spun by Lloyd George, but held no animosity towards his Conservative rival. [15] The outsider was obliged to accept the relatively minor position of Secretary of State for the Colonies hardly a handsome reward for his political connivance with the man who had everything to gain.

British newspapers hailed the new non-party Cabinet for its inclusive strength, but John Redmond, leader of the Irish Home Rule Party, would not accept Asquith’s offer of a minor post. He had little option given the prominent inclusion of leading figures from the Ulster campaign to oppose Home Rule from 1912-14. The men who had openly threatened a breakaway government in Belfast were back in power at Westminster. How ironic that British justice was placed in the hands of those who had been openly prepared to defy that rule of law [16] by raising and arming an illegal private army in Ulster [17] and conveniently taking Britain to the brink of what looked like civil war.

Lloyd George at dispatch box in his role of Minister of Munitions.

Lloyd George was paid his asking price. His disloyalty was bought off with the creation of a Ministry of Munitions in which he was given supreme authority. [18] He knew that the burning issue of the moment was the alleged lack of munitions and heavy artillery. He was aware of the clamour from the Military High Command for better shells; he knew that the exaggerated shortage of weaponry would gather public voice and turn to outrage if not addressed. He believed that this was a job that he alone could do, and that his backers in Britain and in America would support him all the way. He was correct.

Lloyd George received a remarkable letter dated 1 June 1915 from Theodore Roosevelt, former President of the United States, a Pilgrim [19] and close associate of the J.P. Morgan associates. Roosevelt was an enthusiastic advocate for the spread of the English-speaking, Anglo-Saxon expansion across the world [20] and as such was an agent of the Secret Elite. His letter read;

‘ I wish to congratulate you upon the action you have taken in getting a coalition cabinet, and especially your part therein. More than all I wish to congratulate you upon what you have done in connection with this war… the prime business for you to do is to save your country. [21]

The former President of America gave the newly appointed Minster of Munitions his full approval for ‘what you have done’. It was an apostolic blessing from the other side of the Atlantic. Lloyd George was congratulated for his action, not Asquith or Bonar Law, because Roosevelt knew that Lloyd George had masterminded this coalition and was the one man who understood what action to take. He was their man. That letter confirmed their approval.

Asquith was sufficiently astute to keep the post of Chancellor of the Exchequer within the Liberal domain, by stating that Lloyd George’s transfer to the new Ministry of Munitions was a temporary arrangement.

maurice hankey

The Secrete Elite’s man at the hub of the war effort, Maurice Hankey, [22] remained exactly where he had always been, at the very heart of the decision-making. In every reorganisation, every shifting of seats or consolidation of power, in every alteration or formation of committee or council that had power and influence, that involved the inner-cabinet, the real decision-makers, Hankey remained quietly in the background as secretary or minute-taker. His was the ever – present hand that recorded the meeting and increasingly advised the members. [23] He, above all, was in the know.

But Asquith remained to the fore and so too did most of the problems. Getting rid of elected officials is always fraught with some danger, and there was a feeling that this national government would lack the competence to pull the nation together. When analysed critically, the deck-chairs had been shuffled but, with the exception of Lloyd George’s new role, little else changed.

Milner knew it would fail. That’s why he was waiting in the wings.

[1] A. Bonar Law to Asquith, 17 May 1915.
[2] David Lloyd George, War Memoirs, p. 137.
[3] Ibid., p. 135.
[4] Roy Jenkins, Asquith, pp. 360-1.
[5] Hansard, House of Commons Debate, 19 May 1915 vol 71 cc2392-3.
[6] The Times, 20 May 1915, p. 9.
[7] Virginia Cowles, Winston Churchill, p. 204.
[8] Michael and Eleanor Brock, HH Asquith, Letters to Virginia Stanley, p. 598.
[9] The Times Obituary , 20 August 1928, p.17.
[10] Richard Burdon Haldane, An Autobiography, p. 287.
[11] Maurice, Haldane 1856-1915. p. 359.
[12] Ibid. p. 363.
[13] Carroll Quigley, The Anglo-American Establishment, p. 141.
[14] The Times, 26 May 1915, pp. 9-10.
[15] Carroll Quigley, The Anglo-American Establishment, p. 141.
[16] Brian P Murphy, Patrick Pearse and the Lost Republican Ideal, p. 45.
[17] Pat Walsh, The Great Fraud of 1914-18, p. 25.
[18] Lloyd George, War Memoirs, p. 142.
[19] Founded in 1902, this exclusive association of politicians and financiers, ambassadors and businessmen in New York and in London, aimed to preserve the bonds of the english-speaking peoples and promote the Anglo-Saxon race values.
[20] Anne Pimlott Baker, The Pilgrims of America, p. 4.
[21] Roosevelt to Lloyd George, 1 June 1915, reproduced in full on p.145 of his War Memoirs.
[22] Quigley, Anglo-American Establishment, p. 313.
[23] Stephen Roskill, Hankey, Man of Secrets, 1877-1918, pp. 179-185.

The Great Coup of 1916: 2 The Start of the Process; May 1915

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 scape-goats.

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 answe. 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.

The Great Coup of 1916: 1 Democracy: Roots of Poison

The Secret Elite scorn democracy. They always have. The following series of blogs trace the activities through which they eventually replaced a democratically elected government with one in which they themselves took complete control of the British  government from 1916. 

Viscount Alfred Milner leader of the Secret Elite from 1902-25.

In the first years of the twentieth century, their most important influence, Alfred Milner, the passionate promoter of British Imperialism, [1] and favoured heir of Cecil Rhodes’s ideals, [2] held an absolute contempt for the British Parliamentary system [3] which he condemned as an ‘absurd waste of power’. [4] His acolyte, Philip Kerr, later lord Lothian, described his mentor’s attitude to democratic government thus:

‘In every fibre of his being he loathed the slipshod compromises, the optimistic “slogans”, the vote-catching half-truths with which democracy seemed to compromise the majestic governing art …’ [5]

Before he returned to Britain in 1905, Milner, a copious letter-writer, wrote to his future wife, then Lady Violet Cecil, that the system was hopeless. With a prescience which might make the reader today shudder, he predicted that, ‘Perhaps the great charlatan – political scallywag, buffoon, liar…and in other respects popular favourite – may someday arise, who is nevertheless a statesman…and who, having gained power by popular art, may use it for the nations ends. It is an off chance…’ [6]

(Ponder these prophetic words. Though expressed in a different era, you might be forgiven for thinking that Milner’s description fitted Tony Blair or David Lloyd George. Both were loyal servants of the Secret Elite in their day, posed as a socialist, or Liberal in Lloyd George’s case, misrepresented the reasons for promoting war, popular when first in office, considered by some to be statesmen – but not buffoons or political scallywags. No. Such words are utterly inadequate to catch their devious characters.)

Milner never accepted democratic government. He was convinced that a dedicated, hand-picked and trained elite was better-equipped to run Britain’s affairs. [7] He was an unreformed disciple of the Oxford philosopher, John Ruskin, who advocated that the control of the state should be restricted to a small ruling elite. Social order was to be built on the authority of superiors who would impose on their inferiors an absolute unquestioning obedience. [8]

Prime Minister Asquith at dispatch box. The powerful core of his government were far from 'liberal' in their objectives.

With that mind-set and a determination to manipulate the political system, the highest echelons inside Herbert Asquith’s Liberal government had been successfully infiltrated before he became prime minister in 1908. [9] Sir Edward Grey (Foreign Secretary from 1905-16), Richard Haldane (War Minister from 1906-10) and Asquith himself, all Secret Elite place-men, formed the triumvirate which steadfastly steered the British Empire into a predetermined war to crush Germany in 1914. [10] In this they were abetted by Winston Churchill and eventually David Lloyd George. [11] It would be ridiculous to imply that five mediocre British politicians were solely responsible for bringing about the world war.

They did not represent democracy in any shape or form. These men refused to be answerable to parliament or the people. They were, like many who have held top political positions in Britain over the century since, mere instruments of the power behind the scenes – the all-powerful, wealthy secret cabal whom we call the Secret Elite. This sham democracy was aided and abetted by the awesome power of the popular press, much of which was owned and controlled by the same men who wielded real power.

Few knew that a powerful group of newspaper editors and owners were closely associated with Milner and the Secret Elite. His personal network of journalists included George Buckle and later Geoffrey Dawson at the Times, Edmund Garrett at the Westminster Gazette, and ET Cook at the Daily News and Daily Chronicle. All were members of the Secret Elite. [12] Their greatest ally was Alfred Harmsworth, later Lord Northcliffe, whom the Secret Elite approved as owner of the Times in 1908 after he had been closely vetted on their behalf by Lord Esher. [13] As owner of the Daily Mail (1896) the Daily Mirror (1903) the Observer (1905) and the Sunday Times, amongst other publications, Northcliffe’s role in the immediate pre-war years was to stir the populace against Germany. His biographers have translated this into an apparently less threatening response to the calls of Lord Milner and Lord Roberts [14] to ‘champion the cause of national defence on land, at sea and in the air.’ [15] He was the scaremonger chosen to undermine public confidence by constantly accusing Germany and the Kaiser of ill-intentions towards Britain and her Empire.

Le Queux's ridiculous propaganda 'novels', backed by Northcliffe and the Daily Mail was accompanied by nonsense leaflets like 'Englishmen Arise'.

Northcliffe unleashed a torrent of fear deliberately aimed to prepare the nation for war against Germany. The Daily Mail carried concocted half-truths and downright lies to unnerve a people who had previously considered Germany no more than a friendly rival. The unrelenting propaganda spun its rabid negativity into the fabric of the nation in similar vein to the years of fear-inducing hostile headlines which led the British working classes to believe that the Brexit option in 2016 would stop the ill-perceived ‘menace’ of immigration. Falsehood became truth; reason was poisoned. Ludicrous stories filled the pages of the popular press. Little changes. [16]

Spy mania added to the sense of paranoia so cleverly promoted by Northcliffe’s stables. Ludicrous claims were made about German intentions and by default, German residents in Britain. Typical of unfounded scaremongering was Lord Roberts’s calculation that there were ‘80,000 Germans in the United Kingdom, almost all of them trained soldiers. They work many of the hotels at some of the chief railway stations, and if a German force once got into this country it would have the advantage of help and reinforcement such as no other army on foreign soil has ever before enjoyed’. [17] It was of course, nonsense, but how often has the true charlatan abused fear of immigrants to gather public support?

Milner and his associates also had backing from finance and business. He had access to Rhodes’s money and the fortunes of his South African backers, Alfred Beit and Abe Bailey. [18] Having earned the gratitude of the Rothschild family by instigating war against the Boers in order to seize their gold mines, his standing with the armaments and shipbuilding moguls could not have been higher. As increasing numbers of financiers from both sides of the Atlantic joined in associated exclusive clubs like the Pilgrims of the United States and the Pilgrims of Great Britain, [19] Milner’s influence, and consequent power, spread.

As has been fully detailed in both our Hidden History, the Secret Origins of the First World War and over several blogs, [20] this combination of political power, media exploitation and financial backing bounced the British Empire into war with Germany in August 1914 in order to create the Anglo-American supremacy in a new world order.

Consider the awful failing of assumed democracy. Britain declared war on Germany on 4 August on the basis of a package of outrageous lies, vile deception and gross exaggeration just as she did in Iraq almost a century later. Despite the presumed responsibility of government to serve the needs of its citizens and stand accountable for its actions, every check which might have stopped the war was circumvented or ignored. War with Germany was visited upon the British people and the British Empire without consent. The people were not consulted. Ironically, the Liberal government which had been elected in 1906 won a landslide victory based on ‘peace, retrenchment and reform’. [21] Further elections in 1910 returned a government whose foreign policy had not changed; officially.

Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey depicted in the House of Commons. Churchill appears behind him. (right)

Parliament was not consulted about a declaration of war in 1914, despite several reassurances from Sir Edward Grey that it would be. Asquith did not move for a vote in cabinet because he knew that the cabinet was weighed against any decision to go to war. While the Secret Elite marshalled its forces in the press, the Church of England and the hallowed halls of Oxford, opponents were caught flat-footed, disbarred from criticism as the newspapers joined ranks to exclude their views. In Parliament the substantial anti-war lobby was practically silenced when an open debate was denied them by prime minister Asquith himself. [22] Those who thought that they could turn to Lloyd George to stand firm against the war and lead a popular opposition to it were sorely disabused of the notion. Like many since, he lead the dissenters into a cul-de-sac and left them there. The Welsh firebrand welched.

Britain was railroaded into war by a government which was neither capable of running it nor elected to do so. The belief that her naval and economic power was sufficient to defeat the Germans was one of the fundamental premises which underpinned the widely held assumption in Britain that it would be ‘business as usual’. [23] Amongst a range of disinformation put about to assuage a gullible public was that the navy would protect Britain from invasion, strangle the German economy and win a low-cost war, safe behind a decade of naval investment. There was no invasion. Never at any stage in the proceedings did Germany plan for an invasion. A much vaunted blockade [24] was secretly reduced to tokenism. It would not be ‘business as usual’. Be of no doubt, and we have repeatedly made this point in our blogs, the war could have been over by the Spring/Summer of 1915 had that been the prime objective. It was not due to incompetence, though the government merited that tag, or miscalculation, that the war was outwardly mismanaged, but by very carefully executed strategies to supply the enemy and prolong the war. [25]

Belgian Relief ship, part of the enormous fleet gathered by Herbert Hoover to supply food to Belgium AND to Germany.

In fact, the Secret Elite’s men in government did a very capable job in prolonging the war. Asquith’s dithering indecision, his failure to change the nature of decision-making in cabinet proved to be a stranglehold on progress. Lloyd George acted under the supervision of the banking and financial sectors on both sides of the Atlantic and used their backing to obtain loans and munitions through the exclusive J P Morgan / Rothschild portal. [26] Sir Edward Grey’s men in the Foreign Office bent double to accommodate the American interests and completely nullify the brave and tireless efforts of the navy to run an effective blockade. They also rubber-stamped the secretive and illusionary ‘Belgian Relief’ programme which was run by Herbert Hoover to supply Germany with much needed food. [27] Churchill ran amok like a headless chicken frequently abandoning his duties at the Admiralty in favour of self-serving publicity.

Victory in the field was not the objective unless it was predicated upon the complete destruction of Germany as an economic rival, and that would take time and absolute commitment. Two very different approaches were underway. Most of the liberal cabinet set out on a loosely sketched journey believing that a short war would be won at sea, and a small army would suffice for the continental struggle; the Secret Elite’s men embarked on a long debilitating war which protected their interests, guaranteed great profits, and was backed by vast resources from the United States.

Even although the Liberal majority in Asquith’s cabinet were reluctant to abandon their laissez-faire principles, Lloyd George, recognised that control of the railway network and guarantees for the shipping insurance business were absolutely necessary to the survival of social order. [28] In other words, government in times of modern warfare required direct intervention. Tellingly, Lloyd George’s first actions were to protect the banks, the money markets and the business of war. He took credit for saving the city after embracing advice from Nathaniel Rothschild and ‘a section of the business and financial world’. [29] Of course he did. He was their man.

Liberal ideology, long mocked by Milner and his followers, proved ineffectual. Do not include Asquith, Grey and Lloyd George as ‘ liberals’. The first two had long sold their souls to the imperialist race patriots; Lloyd George had simply sold his soul. They were not proponents of a political theory or party, but obedient servants of an apolitical, (in the Party sense) anti-democratic, power-obsessed oligarchy. These political place-men of the Secret Elite (then as now) were labeled liberal for public consumption. In reality they were not what the people, and even fellow members of their own party, imagined.

Prolonging the war was of course very profitable, but winning the war was everything. By 1915, the Secret Elite realised that Asquith’s approach to war-management was failing. He and his ministers were no longer dealing with the political issues for which they had been elected and could not be trusted with the unequivocal drive to crush Germany. The Secret Elite required a government focussed on the destruction of Germany and these men were not up to it.

Somme dead. A tragedy we must never forget.

Hundreds of thousands of young men had already been killed. Prolonging the war required men with cold, hard hearts devoid of compassion, committed to the Secret Elite’s cause. How had Milner expressed the steel required to see war through to the ultimate destruction of the enemy? His chilling advice to Richard Haldane during the Boer War was to ‘disregard the screamers’. [30] It takes a special kind of ‘strength’ to ignore humanitarian issues, ignore the utter chaos caused by the sacrifice of so many and yet be willing to sacrifice many more. Milner had such cold steel in his core.

To the Secret Elite, Milner’s deep-rooted fears were completely vindicated. Democratic liberalism, watered down as it had been since the death of Campbell-Bannerman, [31] denied Britain a co-ordinated agency to direct the war effort. In Asquith’s cabinet, only Lloyd George, increasingly the sole candidate for Secret Elite support, grasped the need to shake up the traditional approach to government. Even a pretence of democracy would not deliver ultimate victory. It was poisoning their cause.

But how could they remove the prime minister who had done their bidding?

[1] Viscount Alfred Milner was from 1902-1925 leader of the Secret Society funded and promoted originally by Cecil Rhodes. Although he spurned elected position and championed preparations for war against Germany, once the war was underway , he and his associates wanted control of the government in wartime to control the post-war settlement was they envisaged it. See Carroll Quigley, The Anglo-American Establishment, pp 4-14 and p.140.
[2] He envisaged his great purpose in life to expand the English-speaking sphere of influence until it was so powerful that no nation could challenge it. see Robin Brown, The Secret Society, p. 18.
[3] Gerry Docherty and Jim Macgregor, Hidden history, The Secret Origins of the First World War, p. 55.
[4] Thomas Packenham, The Boer War, p. 551.
[5] The Nation & Athenaeum, 23 May 1925.
[6] Milner to Lady Cecil as quoted in A M Gollin, Proconsul in Politics, p. 46.
[7] Robin Brown, The Secret Society, p. 253.
[8] J A Hobson, John Ruskin: Social Reformer, p. 187.
[9] Docherty and Macgregor, Hidden History, pp. 101-2.
[11] Winston Churchill, World Crisis Vol 1, pp. 38-9.
[12] Quigley, The Anglo-American Establishment, pp. 311-2.
[13] Lord Reginald Esher was one of the original members of Rhodes’s Secret Society. He was the confidante of Kings Edward VII and George V. His full role in vetting and approving Northcliffe’s acquisition of The Times see, J Lee Thompson, Northcliffe, Press Baron in Politics, 1865-1922, pp. 151-3.
[14] Lord Fredrick Roberts had formerly been Commander-in-Chief of The Forces before his retiral. A close associate ofViscount Milner, with whom he shared many a platform, he avidly supported compulsory conscription to the armed forces.
[15] J. Lee Thompson, Forgotten Patriot, p. 159.
[16] The worst of his kind was William Le Queux, a Walter Mitty character, his ridiculous anti-German propaganda was supported by Northcliffe’s Daily Mail. see Christopher Andrews, Secret Service, pp. 37-48.
[17] Hansard, House of Lords Debate, 23 November 1908 vol 196, cc1691.
[18] Brown, The Secret Society, p. 253.
[19] The Pilgrims Society was the embodiment of the ‘special relationship’ between the United States and Great Britain. [Its centennial history was written by Anne Pimlott Baker.] Exclusive to all but the anglo-saxon elite on both sides of the Atlantic, the Pilgrims of the United States included the most pro- British and influential bankers and financiers.
[20] In particular see Blog of 17 June 2014, Secret Elite 3 : Building the Network.
[21] The great Liberal philosophy which was trumpeted by their parliamentary leader, Henry Campbell-Bannerman, who fought and won the landslide Liberal victory of 1906.
[22] Hansard, House of Commons Debate 03 August 1914 vol 65 cc1831-2.
[23] David French, The Rise and Fall of Business as Usual’, in Kathleen Burk, War and the State, The Transformation of the British Government, 1914-1919, p.10.
[24] see Blogs on the sham of blockade, posted from 10 December 2014 to February 2015. Also E Keble Chatterton, The Big Blockade.
[25] Perhaps the most interesting and puzzling scandal of the First World War was Herbert Hoover’s Commission for Relief in Belgium which ensured that war was prolonged by providing supplies, especially foodstuffs, to Germany from 1914-1917.
[26] Kathleen Burk, War and the State, The Transformation of British Government 1914-18, p. 90.
[27] Michael Amara et Hubert Roland, Gouverner En Belgique Ocuppee, p. 99 and p. 214.
[28] David French, The Rise and Fall of Business as Usual’, in Kathleen Burk, War and the State, The Transformation of the British Government, 1914-1919, p. 7.
[29] David Lloyd George, War Memoirs, p. 70.
[30] J Lee Thompson, Forgotten Patriot, p. 483.
[31] Henry Campbell-Bannerman died in 10 Downing Street on 22 April 1908 from a heart attack.

Field Marshal Horatio Herbert Kitchener 10: The Final Reckoning

The iconic Kitchener recruitment poster.The previous nine blogs have presented the reasons why the men of secret power wanted rid of Herbert Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State for War from 1914-1916… but were unable to manoeuvre him from office. He had threatened the smooth running of Trans-Atlantic finance, had interfered with, and apparently delayed, the enormous growth in armaments and munitions, and did not agree that the war would be won by the nation which fired most shells across the barren pot-holes of the Western Front. His phenomenal contribution to voluntary recruitment could not go on forever. Its initial success in the early months of the war was unsustainable. Conscription had to be introduced in March 1916 when the Military Service Act came into force [1] just as the parliamentarians had wanted, and Kitchener did not trust politicians. He was justified in his mistrust of gossiping Cabinet colleagues. Prime Minister Asquith, for example, shared secret confidential information with his paramour [2] Venetia Stanley on a daily basis. [3] He famously stated that he would give Cabinet ministers all they information they sought ‘if they would only divorce their wives.’ [4] In this, as in many of his other beliefs, Kitchener was absolutely right. London society was a hotbed of unbridled war-gossip especially in the first two years of the conflict.

What Kitchener failed to understand was that neither he, nor the British Cabinet, called the tune. The elite Bankers and financiers, the owners of the military-industrial complex, the manipulators of power and influence, the newspaper moguls and the academic guardians of historical record, the establishment on both sides of the Atlantic had ordained the war to crush Germany and amass even greater fortunes in the process. The Secret Elite whom we have identified by name in Hidden History, The Secret Origins of the First World War, [5] and further expanded in previous blogs, [6] held this as their sole objective.

The famous cartoon of the merchants of death adequately includes the Secret Elite

An early end to the war was not to be contemplated. Nor was the notion of a just and fair peace about which Kitchener had been talking. What use was a compromise which would have allowed German commerce and industry to remain intact with all of the advantages through which modern business practice thrived? It was inconceivable that they would allow the war to end before the American government joined the conflict. The United States had to be drawn into the war in order to offload the enormous private loans and debts accrued by the Morgan / Rothschild/ Rockefeller empires through their monopolies on arms, munitions and international loans. Had Kitchener influenced a move for peace in 1916, the burden of debt would not have been shouldered by US taxpayers, and likewise, British and French tax-payers, but by the financial institutions. An honourable peace would have left Germany strong and independent. Germany had to be made to pay for a war they had never wanted. Lord Kitchener’s threatened intervention imperilled every aspect of the Secret Elite’s aim.

He knew he had enemies, clearly.

Though he himself was a very loyal servant to King and Country, Herbert Kitchener had to struggle against professional jealousy and disloyalty from his senior staff. Sir Henry Wilson, the Principal Liaison Officer between the allied forces in France, was a regular correspondent with Lord Alfred Milner, the acknowledged leader of the Secret Elite, and acted as a high level informant behind the backs of Kitchener and Asquith. The Prime Minister wrote that both he and Kitchener considered Wilson a constantly intriguing serpent [7] so there was little love lost on either side.

Charles Repington, the infamous Times correspondent

The Secretary of State’s enemies amongst the press included editors of the Morning Post and the National Review, but his loudest critic was Lord Northcliffe at The Times and The Mail. Ever close to the Secret Elite, The Times, through their privileged correspondent Charles Repington, had tried to bring Kitchener into public disrepute by fanning the flames of the so-called munitions crisis in 1915. [8] Far from weakening Lord Kitchener, their accusations against him damaged their reputation and underlined the strength of public support he continued to enjoy. [9] Thus Horatio Kitchener was a man with many enemies, not in the trenches, the workplace or the ordinary home, but inside the core of the Establishment. That he understood. What he could not grasp was the grand plan which had been constructed above the realm of public politics.

Asquith was obliged to shake-up his Cabinet in May 1915 and the net impact of the reorganisation was to bring more members of the Secret Elite into public office. Professor Carroll Quigley [10] identified eleven members of Asquith’s ‘coalition’ Cabinet as members of this cabal including Lords Lansdowne and Curzon, Andrew Bonar Law, the Conservative Party leader, Sir Edward Carson, FE Smith, Walter Long, the Earl of Selborne, Robert Cecil and most importantly, Arthur J Balfour, former Prime Minister, as First Lord of the Admiralty. The man whom they dearly wanted removed, Lord Kitchener, stood firm. Though in private they all wanted rid of him, in public he could not be criticised.

Kitchener was popular at the front wherever he went.

For as long as they could find reason to tolerate him, especially once his powers over munitions had been shifted wholesale into Lloyd Geoge’s court, Kitchener remained an asset both as the international figure-head for the British military and as a buffer between the Prime Minister and his detractors. However, once he began to speak privately about his role as a peace-maker at the end of the war, and share his ideals with leading figures in both the military and the government, [11] Kitchener’s days were numbered. The asset had become a liability. But how could they get rid of him? You might construct a long list of possibilities – ‘heart-attack’, ‘suicide’, a full range of ‘natural causes’ might have been actioned. Any public suggestion of his alleged homosexuality would certainly have ruined him but what possible good would have come from trashing the name and reputation of the hero of the Empire? None. Though the military and political agents of the Secret Elite schemed behind his back, it was in the interests of all to protect Kitchener’s public reputation. He had to be removed with a subtlety which brooked no backlash. What were the odds against Herbert Kitchener dying in a naval tragedy, lost at sea? No-one could have anticipated such a scenario or possibly suspect unlawful practice. Surely?

Before anyone rushes to close the account with the dismissive and entirely unfair claim that this is simply another conspiracy, re-read the volume of evidence, actual and circumstantial, which we have already presented. [12]

We have clearly established that there was no immediate need for Herbert Kitchener to visit Russia. Knowing that the Somme offensive would begin in July, he threatened to pull out of the venture as late as 2 June 1916 rather than have it postponed. [13] The central Secret Elite place-man at the Czar’s court in Petrograd (St Petersburg) was Sir John Hanbury-Williams, a close friend and associate of Alfred Milner. [14] Williams’s position as Chief of the British Military Mission to Russia from 1914-1917 was consolidated by ancestral diplomatic connections with the Empress Catherine the Great, which granted him a special place in the Czar’s more intimate circles. [15]

Sir John Hanbury-Williams (left) Head of the British military Mission in Russia.

The Secret Elite network spun a spider’s web of influence across the globe. Hanbury-Williams had conjured the Grand Duke’s supposed appeal to the British to attack the Dardanelles [16] in 1915, and it was he who co-ordinated Kitchener’s visit to Russia in 1916. His diary shows that the Czar ‘talked over the proposed visit of Lord Kitchener with the greatest keenest and interest’ before Hanbury-Williams organised the details with the British Ambassador and the military attache, Sir Alfred Knox. [17] The plan to send Kitchener to Russia emanated from Britain, not Russia. Indeed Hanbury-Williams’s published record omitted detailed reference to the background preparations for what was transformed into ‘Kitchener’s’ visit. Allegedly, when Lord Kitchener insisted that any postponement of his visit would result in its cancellation, Hanbury-Williams took immediate steps to stress Czar Nicholas’s personal wish that the visit go ahead. [18] The plans devised by Hanbury-Williams were transposed into the Czar’s wishes. So ran the web of deceit.

Everyone personally connected with the Secret Elite whose name had been associated with the ‘mission’ to Russian withdrew. To add to this co-incidence, their reaction to the news of Kitchener’s death on HMS Hampshire was in its own right, suspicious. Lloyd George claimed that he heard the ‘startling’ news on his way to a War Council in Downing Street on 6 June. When he entered the Cabinet Room he described ‘the Prime Minister, Sir Edward Grey, Mr Balfour and Sir Maurice Hankey sitting at a table all looking stunned’. This was indeed an inner circle of powerful men who understood what had happened, yet they were unable to talk about the consequences? Remarkably, given the enormity of what had just taken place, ‘Sir Maurice and I quite forgot for the moment that had it not been for the Irish negotiations, we would have shared the same fate.’ [19] That is untrue. From the outset Hankey said he would not go, and Lloyd George’s refusal had nothing to do with Ireland. [20] How many people would have reacted with such sang-froid? He and Hankey ‘quite forgot’ that they should have been on that same ill fated ship? [21] It defied human nature.

Lloyd George in 1915. A man favoured by the Secret Elite.

Indeed, without breaking step or pausing for a moment to contemplate the many contributions of the now deceased Secretary of State for War, Lloyd George knew that ‘the passing of Lord Kitchener left an empty place at the War Office. I realised that this place might be offered to me.’ [22] This man of many plots, of endless carping behind the backs of others, who briefed the press, especially Northcliffe, against Kitchener, displayed an almost callous cynicism. Lloyd George did indeed accept that office on 4 July, but not before ensuring that all the powers that had been systematically stripped from Kitchener were reinvested in the new Secretary of State for War.

On hearing of Kitchener’s death, Northcliffe is reported to have burst into his sister’s drawing room declaring, ‘Providence is on the side of the British Empire’ [23] Fawning tributes dripped from the mouths of the guilty. Admiral Jellicoe solemnly declared that the navy’s grief for ‘a soldier’ whose loss ‘we deplore so deeply. It was our privilege to see him last; he died with many of our comrades’. [24] No mention was made of Admiralty culpability or unswept channels.

Look again at the depth of that culpability. HMS Hampshire was barely fit for service and its loss added little to the Navy’s post-Jutland woes. Jellicoe and his masters at the Admiralty approved the ship’s route into a known minefield. Naval intelligence at Room 40 had carefully monitored all U-Boat activity. References to the minefield and the sinking of the trawler, Laurel Rose were removed or altered to suit the cover-up ‘explanation’ when difficult questions were raised about the fate of the Hampshire. The official report was kept secret. Key documents have still never seen the light of day.

Kitchener's death was followed by a plethora of false praise from duplicitous men.

Kitchener’s murder was covered with dripping platitudes and cynically penned obituaries. In the House of Lords, Lansdowne proclaimed that Kitchener’s death ‘was a great and dignified exit from the stage upon which he had played so prominent a part during the long years of his life.’ [25] The two-faced Asquith lamented ‘his career has been cut short while still in the full tide of unexhausted powers and possibilities.’ [26] The Secret Elite’s John Buchan ordained that ‘in a sense his work was finished’ and ‘his death was a fitting conclusion to the drama of his life.’ [27] ‘Bollocks’ may not be a recognised historical assessment, but ‘bollocks’ it remains. They peddled lies as fraudsters do.

The full panoply of State and Church gathered at St Paul’s Cathedral on 13 June to hold a service of remembrance for Lord Kitchener and his staff. The King and Queen accompanied by Queen Alexandra, the Lord Mayor in his black and gold robes, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London, and assorted Aldermen and Sheriffs all gathered to pay their final respects to the former Secretary of State for War and champion of the Empire. They sang ‘Abide with me’, recited the ‘De Profundis’, read from the liturgy, said Prayers for the Country at War and thanked God for a brave and courageous life. The service ended with all three verses of God Save the King. [28] Thus with a great sense of theatre, Kitchener’s memory was consigned to the annals of received history. How quintessentially British.

No-one has ever been held to account for the murder of Lord Herbert Horatio Kitchener and over 700 other men.

[1] Conscription: the First World War – UK Parliament
http://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/transformingsociety/private…/conscription/
[2] Asquith’s complex relationship with the much younger Venetia Stanley has intrigued commentators over the century. Whether or not they were lovers remains unproven.
[3]Michael Brock and Eleanor Brock, H H Asquith, Letters to Venetia Stanley, Oxford University Press, 1982.
[4] Viscount Hankey, The Supreme Command, Vol. 1, p. 221.
[5] Gerry Docherty and Jim Macgregor, Hidden History, The Secret Origins of the First World War, Mainstream, 2013 pp. 12-16 onwards, Appendix 1, p. 362 and Appendix 2, pp. 363-9.
[6] Secret Elite, Blogs 1-3, posted June 15-17, 2014.
[7] Brock and Brock, H H Asquith, Letters, p. 342, (Asquith to Venetia Stanley 28 Dec 1914.)
[8] see blog; Munitions 6: Crisis, What Crisis? posted 8 July 2015.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Professor Carroll Quigley, author of The Anglo-American Establishment, initially identified and named the secret cabal who controlled British foreign policy from the early years of the twentieth century.
[11] Randolph Churchill, Lord Derby, King of Lancashire, pp. 209-10.
[12] previous blogs posted from 4 May, 2016 – 29 June 2016.
[13] George Arthur, Life of Lord Kitchener, Volume 3, pp. 350-1.
[14] Carroll Quigley, The Anglo-American Establishment, p. 56.
[15] John Hanbury-Williams, The Emperor Nicholas II, as I knew him, p. 1.
[16] See blog, Gallipoli 9, posted 20 March 2015.
[17] Hanbury-Williams, The Emperor Nicholas II, p. 94.
[18] Ibid., pp. 98-9.
[19] David Lloyd George, War Memoirs, vol.1, p. 456.
[20] Stephen Roskill, Hankey, Vol. I, p. 269.
[21] Hankey Diary 6 June 1916, quoted in Roskill, Hankey Vol 1, pp. 279-80.
[22] Lloyd George, War Memoirs, p. 456.
[23] J Lee Thomson, Politicians, the Press and Propaganda, Lord Northcliffe & The Great War, 1914-1919, p. 101.
[24] The Times, 14 June 1914.
[25] Lord Lansdowne , Hansard, House of Lords Debate, 20 June 1916 vol 22 cc315-22.
[26] House of Commons Debate, 21 June 1916 vol 83 cc145-51.
[27] John Buchan, Episodes of the Great War, pp. 246-7.
[28] The Times 14 June 1914.

Field Marshal Horatio Herbert Kitchener 9: Secret Reports and Key Omissions

Admiral Beatty was credited as the real hero of Jutland and was promoted to Admiral of the Fleet.The Admiralty lied to the public throughout the war. It’s official reports and accounts of politically sensitive events like the sinking of the Lusitania and of the one major encounter at sea between the British Grand Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet have been discredited over the last century. [1] Nameless officials doctored ‘evidence’. Courts of Enquiry, especially that of the sinking of the Lusitania, were rigged and embarrassingly flawed. When he was First Sea Lord in 1920, Admiral Beatty falsified his own signature to battle plans concerning Jutland four years after the event. [2]

Immediately after the war the Conservative MP Commander Carolyn Bellairs wrote ‘The Jutland despatches withheld the truth about the battle; and Mr Balfour [First Lord of the Admiralty] who is said to have set aside responsible advice from within the Admiralty itself, refused to assemble a court-martial to inquire into all the circumstances. [By] Retaining Lord Jellicoe in command, he knew, and indeed asked the press, that criticism should be silenced.’ [3] This direct request to the press from the Secret Elite’s Arthur Balfour also covered the period when harsh questions were being asked about the fate of HMS Hampshire. ‘Criticism should be silenced.’ [4] What were they afraid of?

Bellairs had reached the rank of Commander after eighteen years service in the navy before becoming a journalist and politician in 1902. By 1915 he was Conservative member for Maidstone Borough and brought a great depth of knowledge and criticism to parliamentary debates on the navy. He and several other critics tackled the Admiralty’s apparent inability to answer relatively simple questions about the sinking of the Hampshire in a House of Commons debate in July 1916. [5] Despite requests that they should not raise difficult questions that might aid the enemy, many MPs wanted to know what was really going on. Firstly, why did the Admiralty reject a public enquiry into the loss of the Hampshire on 5 June at Marwick Head? Protocol laid down that whenever a ship was lost at sea, a public court-martial should be held with the survivors to ascertain precisely why. Lord Kitchener’s death commanded huge public interest and concern. Still there was no public enquiry.

Kitchener Memorial Service at St Paul's in London.

Sir Richard Cooper correctly pointed out that in refusing to answer questions, the evasive Admiralty only added to wild speculation. They would not confirm whether the sea lane used by HMS Hampshire had been swept for mines. We know that it had not. Jellicoe admitted this in his own history of the Grand Fleet. [6] There was no credible answer to questions raised about the announcement of Lord Kitchener’s death. Cooper pointed out that the formal communique about the loss of the Hampshire was issued in London at 2pm on 6 June 1916, and that evening, the details of Kitchener’s memorial service at St Paul’s were made public before the War Office could reasonably assume that he had not survived. [7] Strange. The bodies picked out of the sea or caught smashed against the jagged rocks were collected and quickly buried. There was no coroner’s inquest, or since the jurisdiction was in Scotland, fatal accident inquiry. [8] It was as if the evidence had to be removed from the scene of the crime. Strange, indeed. To make matters worse, the Admiralty slapped a formal restriction on anyone going to or from the Orkneys on 7 June. Why did they want to keep journalists away from the island? Such restrictions could hardly have restricted spies, if such was the purpose. At every turn officials behaved as if there was something to hide.

The Secretary of the Admiralty issued a summary of the conclusions reached by Jellicoe’s own staff after they had interrogated the 12 survivors of the doomed ship. The Admiralty published their official statement on Saturday 10 June. [9] The narrative was brief and succinct to the point of mere repetition of what had already been published in the newspapers. It focussed on the weather, the unexpected mine and the dignity of Lord Kitchener as he bravely faced death. How fortunate that one of the witnesses, Petty Officer Wilfred Wesson [10] was able to confirm that Lord Kitchener was last seen on deck before the ship went down.

Survivors of HMS Hampshire. The sailor wrapped in bandages is Fredrick Sims who sustained burns when the Hampshire exploded.Many years later in a newspaper article [11] Wesson’s story offered food for thought. Despite the fact that the noise of storm and confusion was deafening, ‘there were orders being shouted. They were mostly being caught in the gale and lost… the wind howled ..immeasurable banks of waves burst in shivering cascades …and then Lord Kitchener came on deck. An officer shouted “Make way for Lord Kitchener”. The captain had called to him to come up to the fore bridge .. that was the last I saw of Lord Kitchener.’ [12] Putting aside journalistic license, we might well wonder how Petty Officer Wesson actually heard what he claimed to have borne witness to in the raging storm? However, what was important to the Admiralty was that they produced a witness who could confirm that Herbert Kitchener made it onto the deck, and so must have been lost with the captain and other senior officers.

During the House of Commons exchanges on 6 July 1916, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty, Dr Macnamara, insisted that ‘a full and careful Court of Enquiry’ had been held and ‘a full summary of the report published’ covering the evidence from each survivor. [13] It would appear from subsequent evidence that questions were limited to ‘do you think the Hampshire hit a mine’ and ‘did you see Lord Kitchener?’ Why? Did they have reason to doubt that HMS Hampshire hit a mine? Were they concerned that some story of an internal explosion might raise other issues? And what did it matter if the Secretary of State for War was or was not seen on deck? It was as if the sailors were being asked leading questions.

Aberdeen harbour at the turn of the twentieth century. The Effort was slightly larger than the small fishing vessels in the picture.

The naval authorities did not consider it worthwhile to open an investigation on the allegations from the crew of the Aberdeen trawler, Effort, that the seas were much calmer when they passed the signs of wreckage or search for information from the Dutch trawler reported to have been around the scene of the sinking. [14] Commander Bellairs was once again on his feet to suggest that ‘one of the reasons why the Admiralty of late have taken a dislike to courts-martial is that … they have been known to bring in verdicts blaming the Admiralty. [15] He made one further startling statement: ‘Recently there has been a column in the newspapers about HMS Hampshire and the Battle of Jutland: some of us know that the Hampshire was never in the Battle of Jutland.’ [16]

What? The official order of battle would disagree – but Bellairs was the naval correspondent to War Illustrated and a member of parliament who had many connections inside the Admiralty. Surely he was wrong – or was this yet another alteration made after the event by Lord Jellicoe when he was promoted to First Sea Lord? [17] The more one learns of the Admiralty’s complicity in hiding the truth, the more one wonders what that truth really was.

Yet there was a full official report. It was kept secret. When asked in Parliament where the official enquiry had been held and who conducted it, the evasive answer given was ‘at a naval base under the presidency of a captain of the Royal Navy.’ [18] No names, dates or places. Little wonder suspicion of a cover-up began within a few days of Kitchener’s death.

Rumours ran rife. All of these muddied the waters with suggestions of foul play which ranged from an internal explosion masterminded by Sinn Fein in reprisal for the Easter Rising, to slack talk in Russia which had alerted the Germans who sent a submarine to sink the Hampshire. Such nonsense turned the public away from the most certain of facts. The Admiralty was at fault to the extent that we have every right to suggest complicity. Ten years after Kitchener’s death his friend and biographer, Sir George Arthur, had suffered so many queries about the ‘truth’ surrounding the sinking of the Hampshire that he wrote a public letter to the Editor of The Times [19] in which he exposed the Admiralty’s duplicity:

Front cover of Sir George Arthur's biography of his friend Lord Kitchener.

‘…early in 1920 the First Lord of the Admiralty (the late Lord Long)  invited me to read the secret , or unpublished, report on the sinking of the Hampshire, on the understanding that I would not divulge a word of it to anybody. I declined to read the document under these conditions, as my object was to give in my “Life of Lord Kitchener” the correct version of the tragedy – and this I could not do if material were in my hands which I was not allowed to use. I told the First Lord that I should submit in my book that neglect, or at any rate carelessness, must be charged to the Admiralty, or the Commander of the Grand Fleet, in the arrangements made for Lord Kitchener’s voyage. The reply of the First Lord was, “I do not think you could say otherwise.” [20]

The impact of this revelation hit the Admiralty like a naval broadside. There had been a secret report. There were ‘versions’ of the tragedy. ‘Neglect’ or ‘carelessness’ had been covered-up. George Arthur forced the issue. The Admiralty was obligated to print the official narrative of the sinking of the Hampshire in the form of a White Paper [21] which could be bought for sixpence in August 1926. It added little to the information which had dripped into the public domain save repeating statements already published. Indeed, having considered the lack of new revelations you would have to ask why this had not happened much earlier.

There is another important but contentious fact. According to naval records, HM Drifter Laurel Crown was one of eight boats in a flotilla crossing the site of the Hampshire’s sinking, when she was struck by one of the U-75’s mines on 22 June 1916, some seventeen days after the tragedy. There were no survivors. No-one to tell the tale. A number of concerns emerged.

The first was how could a small 81 ton drifter, literally a fishing boat pressed into minesweeping service, hit a carefully located mine placed some seven meters from the surface? [22] One of the most important factors that seemingly explained HMS Hampshire’s fate was that her weight and displacement on the surging seas combined to take the ship to sufficient depth to cause the collision of mine and cruiser. In theory the German trap laid by U-75 was set to catch much bigger fish than even the Hampshire. Yet a tiny drifter hit one of these mines? How bizarre.

Mine-laying U-Boat 75, sunk in 1917.

Secondly, there is a clear difference in official records concerning the date of the Laurel Crown’s demise. In the document, ‘Navy Losses, 1914-1918’ published in 1919, the hired drifter Laurel Crown is recorded to have been “Sunk by mine west of Orkneys on 2.6.16”. [23] The official German naval history, [24] described the U-75’s voyage in May 1916 and recorded that ‘on June 2nd the drifter Laurel Crown ran into one of U75’s mines and was sunk.’ Thus both official records from the major combatants clearly stated that the Laurel Crown was sunk on 2 June, 1916. [25] Given that these official naval records corroborate each other, the Admiralty must have known of U75’s mine barrier. It would have been abundantly clear to the authorities at Scapa Flow that there was a minefield sewn across the path of HMS Hampshire. Are you prepared to believe that in the confusion after the Battle of Jutland, reports of the trawler’s sinking were delayed, ignored, or otherwise unknown to the senior staff in Scapa Flow?

However, records from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for the crewmen of Laurel Crown give their date of death as Thursday 22 June 1916. That is the same date recorded by the Court of Inquiry held in Kirkwall a week later [26]. Have these too been adjusted to suit the Admiralty’s cover-up? The sinking of Laurel Crown is not included in the official British naval history, “Naval Operations, Volume IV” written by Henry Newbolt and published in 1928. [27] How odd. Official dates, altered dates, strange omissions. For reasons that have never been challenged, the sinking of the Laurel Crown has been relegated to claims and counter claims about the date of its demise.

If, as is surely the case, the official records in Britain and in Germany are correct, Lord Kitchener, his party, and around 700 seamen were sacrificed to ensure that he was lost at sea. Do not be dissuaded by the enormity of the cost. Barely one month later on the killing fields of the Somme, hundreds of thousands more brave men were  needlessly sacrificed in the name of civilisation. Crushing Germany was all that mattered. One more ship was easily lost in the fog of Jutland’s confusion.

[1] Carolyn Bellairs, The Battle of Jutland, The Sewing and the Reaping. 1919.
[2] John Brooks, The Battle of Jutland, p. 307, footnote 198.
[3] Bellairs, Jutland, Preface, p. X.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Hansard, House of Commons Debate, 6 July 1916 vol 83 cc1796-813.
[6] Viscount Jellicoe, The Grand Fleet (!914-1916): Its Creation, Development and Work, p. 427, where he states that had he ordered the seas ahead of HMS Hampshire swept, Kitchener would have lost three days in consequence. Alas it was his life that was lost.
[7] Hansard, House of Commons Debate, 6 July 1916 vol 83 cc1796-813.
[8] In Scottish Law a fatal accident inquiry would have been the appropriate means of investigation. This legal process would take place before a Sheriff and does not require a jury.
[9] Details given in Parliament. See House of Commons Debate 22 June 1916 vol. 83 cc316-3.
[10] Wesson’s service number was PO201136(PO). A full list of survivors and their identification number was published.
[11] Sunday Express, 8 July, 1934.
[12] Jane Storey, HMS Hampshire, Survivors and Their First Statements, http://www.bjentertainments.co.uk/js/survivors.htm%5D
[13] Hansard, House of Commons Debate, 6 July 1916 vol 83 cc1813.
[14] see previous blog
[15] Hansard, House of Commons Debate, 6 July 1916 vol 83 cc1813
[16] Ibid.
[17] http://www.channel4.com/programmes/jutland-wwis-greatest-sea-battle
[18] Hansard House of Commons Debate, 27 June 1916 vol 83 cc732-3.
[19] The Times, 10 February, 1926, p.10.
[20] Ibid.
[21] Cmd. 2710.
[22] Fregattenkapitän Oskar Groos. Der Krieg zur See 1914-18, Nordsee Band V pp. 201-2.
[23] National Archives ADM 137/3138.
[24] Groos, Der Krieg zur See 1914-18, Nordsee Band V.
[25] https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0ahUKEwj6-fzEvfrMAhVLDsAKHU30Am4QFggdMAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.rbls-kirkwall.org.uk%2Fmemorials%2FBur%2FGeorgePetrie.doc&usg=AFQjCNFPMO_PWaZWiQp6oJ3o_ONhNn72Ig&sig2=XPyFHttCwB_DkKyUPnrp_Q
[26] National Archives ADM 137/3138
[27] Henry Newbolt, History of the Great War, Based on Official Documents. Naval Operations, Vol IV, pp. 1-21.
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Field Marshal Horatio Herbert Kitchener 8: What Happened? None of Your Bloody Business

Marwick Head on a quiet evening. In a force 9 gale it is a death-trap.

On 5 June 1916, at 7.45 pm GMT, an urgent telegraph was sent from Birsay Post Office to Kirkwall and Stromness. It read ‘Battle cruiser seems in distress between Marwick Head and the Brough of Birsay.’ Twenty minutes later the words ‘vessel down’ followed. [1] The cruiser was about a mile and a half from shore in tempestuous swells but clearly visible to the naval watching-post on land. Marwick Head is a jagged coastal fortress of cliffs and unwelcoming rocks. If there is such a place as the perfect ambush point for a ship such that the chances of survival are minimal, then it’s Marwick Head. The escort vessels, having failed to keep pace with the faster cruiser in such awful weather, had been ordered back to Scapa Flow. [2] There were witnesses. Joe Angus, a gunner in the Orkney Territorial Forces shore patrol [3] saw a great cloud of smoke and flame bursting up behind the bridge of the Hampshire, and it was he who set off the alarm. [4] Having been alerted, Corporal Drever, who manned the naval watching post, raced to the post office. [5] What followed beggars belief. If at the end of this blog you still consider what happened that evening as a mere catalogue of misunderstanding and error, then the official explanation will suffice. If not, you will be forced to conclude that dark forces were at work. Examine the time-scale:

5 June, 1916, 7.45 [GMT] pm [6]

An artist's impression of the sinking of HMS Hampshire in June 1916.

The Hampshire had been set on a course North, thirty degrees East. [7] It struck a mine which exploded just behind the bridge. [8] but did not sink immediately. In the ensuing mayhem only twelve out of around seven hundred men [9] survived both the floundering ship and the wrath of the angry North Sea gale. Of these, nine survivors specifically reported that a single explosion ripped the ship apart. William Bennet, officer on watch in the engine room, thought there were two or even three. They had to overcome the poisonous smoke and suffocating fumes to reach the deck. Estimates of the time between explosion and sinking, ranged from ten to twenty minutes. Confusion added to the howling wind and booming seas. Lifeboats could not be launched because the ship’s power had been lost. Boats cut free were dashed to pieces in the cold, debilitating waters. Men with lifebelts jumped in desperation. Only the Carley safety floats offered any chance of survival. [10]

5 June, 1916, 8.00 [GMT] pm onwards

Stoker Walter Farnden was one of an estimated forty men who clung to No. 3 raft with its cork-reinforced edges and rope handles. One by one they disappeared into the deep, frozen, exhausted unable to steer towards anyone still holding onto life amongst the debris. Stoker Farnden later described the torture he and his comrades endured: ‘An hour passed, two hours, and nearer and nearer to land the storm hurled us. Men were still dying in the agony of it all until there were but four of us alive.’ [11] Hundreds of men died in the wild seas because no-one was on hand to help. This human tragedy unfolded one and a half miles from the coast, witnessed and reported to the authorities at Scapa Flow within minutes, yet these poor men were left to die; abandoned outside the largest natural anchorage in the Empire. Why?

At the moment when possibly hundreds of men might have been rescued by a prompt response to the emergency call, the navy failed its own. Later a pathetic excuse was offered blaming the initial telegram for inaccurate detail. That ceased to have any relevance when the 8.20 message read ‘Vessel down.’ By 8.35 a third despairing message read: ‘Four funnel cruiser sunk 20 minutes ago. No assistance arrived yet. Send ships to pick up bodies.’ Men had been in the water for almost an hour, but still the Admiralty dithered.

Vice-Admiral Brock at the Longhope station on Orkney was informed of the 8.20 message that a vessel was down. Despite all that he knew, Brock did not immediately order out a rescue flotilla. Time was wasted confirming the telegrams from Birsay. Brock had been one of the guests at the special lunch hosted in Kitchener’s honour by Admiral Jellicoe that day. Brock knew of the late change to the Hampshire’s course. He knew about Kitchener’s mission to Russia. His failure to take immediate action remains incomprehensible. There was only one warship on that exclusive route. He must have known that the stricken ship was HMS Hampshire. [12] Of course he knew. His delay undoubtedly cost the lives of many dozens of potential survivors. Had Kitchener been in the water, he too would have been lost.

Rear Admiral Osmond Brock ended his career as Admiral of the Fleet. [13]

Survivors of HMS Hampshire, pictured by the Daily Mail

Orcadians who witnessed the tragedy could see that there were survivors amongst the bloated bodies but the seas were a natural bulwark between the desperate sailors and safety. Unless there were secret orders in place, what followed remains a tale of incompetence, panic and bewilderment on a scale that fails to make any sense. At every point the reader must remember that the sinking took place just one and a half miles from the Orkney coast – an area bristling with naval activity- the home of the Grand Fleet itself.

In Stromness, news of the cruiser’s loss was quickly relayed to the Royal National Lifeboat Institute whose secretary G L Thomson immediately rushed to alert the naval authorities and launch the life boat. He was stunned when told not to even try to do so. He demanded to speak with the senior officer only to be told that it was ‘none of his bloody business’, and warned very clearly and very specifically that he would be charged with mutiny if he attempted to launch the life boat. Matters got so heated that he and his crew were threatened with being put into custody. [14] Lifeboats exist to assist those in peril on the seas. Their purpose is to save lives. Their history around the coasts of Britain is of great self-sacrifice and valour. That the navy should order the grounding of a lifeboat makes no sense. Had the Admiralty ordained that there should be no survivors?

In Birsay, the few locals who knew about the disaster wanted to help, but in some cases ‘were forcibly prevented [from trying to get to survivors] under dire threats’ and even ordered to stay away from the shore or they would be fired on. The local people were certain that had they been allowed to take immediate action, fifty more lives could have been saved. [15] Ponder that awful fact. Local people could not fathom the inaction, the secrecy and the lack of tangible assistance for those despairing souls on the water.

5 June, 1916, 9.45 [GMT] pm. to midnight.

It took over two hours for a tug and two trawlers to make their way out of Stromness, and then at 10.pm four destroyers followed. Observers on the island of Birsay recalled that none of these reached the scene of the disaster before midnight. At around 1pm, one of the Carley rafts washed up on the rocks of a small creek half a mile north of Skaill Bay. It carried around 40 men when it left the stricken Hampshire, picked up another 30 from the chilling seas, but only 6 men had survived the debilitating exposure when it smashed into the rocky cliffs. Fifteen minutes later a second life raft reached the shore just north of the first with four living men amongst the 40 – 50 bodies. Can you imagine their physical and mental exhaustion? And none was yet safe. They faced the black cliffs with no-one in sight to offer assistance, throw down ropes or guide their hands as they climbed blindly upwards. One or two men reached a farm house, exhausted and barely alive.

6 June 1916, 10.30am [GMT]

Initially, the authorities were unaware of survivors, and the following official statement was issued to the press at 1.40 pm. on 6 June;

Aberdeen Evening Express reporting the official Admiralty statement about the Hampshire's fate.

‘The Secretary of the Admiralty has received the following telegram from the Admiral Commander in Chief of the Grand Fleet [Jellicoe] at 10.30 am this morning:

I have to report with deep regret that HMS Hampshire (Capt. Robert J Savill, R.N.) with Lord Kitchener and staff on board was sunk last night about8 pm. to the west of the Orkneys, either by mine or torpedo. Four boats were seen by observer on shore to leave the ship. The wind was N.N.W. and heavy seas were running. Patrol boats and destroyers at once proceeded to the spot and a party was sent along the coast to search but only some bodies and a capsized boat have been found up to present. As the whole shore has been searched, I fear there is little hope of there being any survivors. No report has yet been received from the search party on shore. The Hampshire was on her way to Russia.’ [16]

The cover-up had begun. The Empire had been informed that ‘there is little hope of survivors’ and the instant histories, like War Illustrated bluntly stated that ‘Lord Kitchener … on board HMS Hampshire, had been drowned together with his staff and the whole complement of that cruiser.’ [17] The Times carried news from a special correspondent which inferred immediate assistance was sent. ‘vessels which were instantly summoned to make a search found no trace of the sunken warship, or even, for a time, of any floating bodies.’ [18] The first announcements were erroneous. Incredibly, there were survivors. However, no vessels had instantly been summoned. Rear Admiral Brock had seen to that. That was possibly the greatest lie of all.

The Aberdeen trawler Effort passed the spot where the Hampshire sank two hours after the disaster. In the option of the crew, the sea was a not so rough as to prevent small boats being launched, but nothing was seen of the wreck. By that time the weather had moderated. Strangely the report from Aberdeen added that ‘the only craft observed was a Dutch vessel, which was steaming very closely.’ [19] Where did that come from? This mystery ship has never been identified.

Royal Naval Cemetary at Lyness where the bodies recovered from the sinking of the Hampshire are buried.

Over the next days local Orcadians reported seeing two lorry loads of bodies arriving at Stromness Pier, barely covered, the lifeless crew piled high in open view, some almost naked as they were shunted down onto a waiting tug and taken for burial at Lyness. [20]

Take a second, please to review the main points. HMS Hampshire was sighted from land after an explosion had ripped her apart. Such was the violence of the explosion that her electrical system failed catastrophically and no mayday signal went out. However, a telegram was sent almost immediately from a watch point on the island of Birsay to alert the authorities at Scapa Flow. According to explanations announced by the Admiralty, vessels were immediately sent to the Hampshire’s assistance, but despite gallant efforts, there were no survivors. Later it was discovered that a dozen men survived the mountainous waves and freezing seas.

We now know that no ships were sent to find survivors until hours later. The log books from HMS Unity and HMS Victor, the two destroyers originally sent back from escorting the Hampshire show that they put to sea again at 9.10pm [21] and took an hour and a half to reach the area of wreckage . [22] Critically, and some might say, criminally, Vice Admiral Brock, who knew every detail of the Hampshire’s course, chose not to take immediate action to send assistance.

This was not, however, how these events were explained in the Admiralty’s official explanation.

[1] Jane E Storey.http://www.bjentertainments.co.uk/js/THE%20Orcadian.htm The Arcadian, New Light On Hampshire Tragedy.
[2] Philip Magnus, Kitchener, Portrait of an Imperialist. p. 373.
[3] Trevor Royle, The Kitchener Enigma, p. 374.
[4] Joe Angus, Stromness, ‘World War One’, Orkney Public Library, Kirkwall, interview for Sound Archive by Eric Marwick.
[5] Jane E Storey.http://www.bjentertainments.co.uk/js/THE%20Orcadian.htm The Arcadian, New Light On Hampshire Tragedy.
[6] The timings used are at Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) which is used throughout the world. British Summer Time (BST) , or delight saving time, is one hour in advance of that, viz GMT+1.
[7] Royle, Kitchener Enigma, p. 372.
[8] Evidence of Petty Officer Samuel Sweeney. All of the following statements were sent by telephone from O.C.W.P. at 2.pm on 6 June 1916.
[9] The precise number may never be known, Royle puts it at 655 (p. 375). Orkney Heritage Society put the number at 737 to include men killed in the loss of the Laurel Crown. http://www.orkneycommunities.co.uk/ohs/index.asp?pageid=592610
[10] The Carley float was formed from a length of copper or steel tubing surrounded by a buoyant mass of cork. The American produced raft was rigid and could remain buoyant, floating equally well with either side uppermost. The floor of the raft was made from a wood or webbed grating. Commonly used on British warships in World War 1.
[11] The Great War- I Was There, Walter Farnden, part 15. pp. 604-7.
[12] Royle, Kitchener Enigma, p. 375.
[13] W. S. Chalmers, ‘Brock, Sir Osmond de Beauvoir (1869–1947)’, rev. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/32079
[14] Jane Storey; http://www.bjentertainments.co.uk/js/THE%20Orcadian.htm
[15] Ibid.
[16] The Times, 7 June 1916. p. 10.
[17] The War Illustrated, Volume 4, 17 June 1916, p. 410.
[18] The Times, 10 June, p. 8.
[19] The Times, 9 June 1916, p. 9.
[20] The Royal Naval Cemetery at Lyness on the island of Hoy is the resting place for 445 Commonwealth naval personnel, 109 of whom died in the First World War.
[21] National Archives ADM 53/66480 and ADM 53/67364.
[22] Royle, Kitchener Enigma, p. 371.

Field Marshal Horatio Herbert Kitchener 7: Death on the High Seas

Lord Kitchener transferring to Jellicoe's flagship HMS Iron Duke before attic sail on the Hampshire on 5 June 1916.At around 7.45pm on 5 June 2016, Field Marshal The Earl Kitchener was drowned just off the west coast of Orkney in Scotland. His death shocked ordinary men and women across the British Empire who could not fathom why he was at sea. Disbelief was followed by a short period of criticism and enquiry. Numerous theories of spurious conspiracy were spread by the press which muddied the waters successfully in the weeks immediately afterwards, but a greater horror soon followed at the Somme and Kitchener’s demise became but one calamity in a summer of tragedies.

We know that key members of the Secret Elite wanted rid of him. His views on a fair peace and his self-ordained aims for the end of the war were unacceptable. [1] But how to get rid of him? Having demonstrated in previous blogs that his mission to Russia was not particularly important, that he was not invited by the Czar as several historians have claimed [2] and that he had considered postponing the visit, we have to critically re-examine Kitchener’s death. Was it simply an act of good fortune for those who wanted him gone or were there more disturbing undercurrents? Consider the sequence of events.

Herbert Kitchener left for his visit to Russian in good spirits. Critics of his performance as Secretary of State for War had been quashed in a failed censure motion in parliament on 31 May [3] and on 1 June he met with over 200 MPs to give them the opportunity to hear his views on the war to date. He answered their questions openly and the parliamentarians responded with warm and prolonged applause. [4] That evening he had a farewell audience with King George V and went from Buckingham Palace to Downing Street for a lengthy one-to-one meeting with Prime Minister Asquith. With hindsight it had the feel of a farewell tour.

Pictorial representation of the Battle of Jutland

At that very moment, out in the North Sea, near Denmark’s Jutland Peninsula, the only full-scale clash between the British Grand Fleet and the German Imperial Fleet was erupting. Both sides claimed victory, though the British suffered heavy losses including six cruisers and eight destroyers. [5] Almost immediately afterwards Admiral Sir John Jellicoe ordered an enquiry into the loss of so many cruisers [6] and as the fleet returned to Scapa Flow, bruised and damaged, the blame game began. While the loss of 6,097 men was a serious blow to Admiralty prestige, the German Fleet, which suffered 2,557 losses, [7]was afterwards more or less confined to port for the duration of the war. Both sides claimed victory, but Jellicoe’s reputation never recovered. He was already under great strain, both physically and mentally. [8]

And in the midst off this naval trauma, the most iconic soldier in the Empire arrived at Scapa Flow. Kitchener and his staff had travelled the 700 mile journey north to Scotland overnight by train on a special coach from King’s Cross station. Next day, Monday 5 June 1916, he arrived at the port of Scrabster near Thurso and made the rough two hour crossing to Orkney on the destroyer, HMS Oak. What is pertinent to all that transpired thereafter was that the Secretary of State for War was entirely in the hands of the Admiralty, and the Admiralty was in the hands of the Secret Elite’s Arthur Balfour. [9] It was Admiral Jellicoe who allocated the old coal-fired armoured cruiser HMS Hampshire to carry their precious passenger to Archangel in Russia even although she was reported to have sustained light damage in the Jutland battle. It was Jellicoe who issued the initial orders on 4 June to the Hampshire’s Captain, Herbert Savill, who had sailed the Orkney passages for over a year. Crucially, it was Jellicoe who changed these instructions at the last moment directing the cruiser up the western coasts of the Orkney islands, allegedly a safer more protected route. There was no protection from a cyclonic storm around Orkney save the stout safety of Scapa Flow harbour.

HMS Hampshire in force 9 Gale

The weather was foul. In fact it was about as bad as it could be in June. According to the local newspaper, the Orcadian, a force 9 gale, the wildest summer storm Orkney had experienced for years, raged over the island. Alexander McAdie, Professor of Meteorology at Harvard University later destroyed the claim that Jellicoe and his staff could not have anticipated the raging gale which circulated around Orkney that day. A clearly identified cyclone was passing from the Atlantic to the North Sea and was on the point of recurve before heading into the Artic regions. He stated that ‘the forecaster in London would have warned against starting under such conditions…the counsel of the weatherise would have been to wait and follow the depression rather than try to precede it.’ [10] Apologists for the Admiralty and Jellicoe blamed ‘bad judgement and complacency’. [11] In 1923, McAdie destroyed such a notion by claiming that ‘the lack of definite knowledge of the storm’s position seems inexcusable.’ [12]

We are talking here about the British Admiralty, with its centuries of experience in weather and seamanship. The Admiralty knew about the organisation of Kitchener’s visit because they were responsible for its detailed planning. Jellicoe was the Commander-in-Chief of the Fleet. He knew Scapa Flow and its cyclonic storms and gales. He was in regular contact with London. Indeed Jellicoe telegraphed the Admiralty to seek permission to permit HMS Hampshire to remain at Archangel for the duration of Kitchener’s visit and received approval at 6.08 pm on 5 June, once the Hampshire was underway. [13] Surely, as Commander in Chief of the Grand Fleet, Jellicoe could have made such a decision on his own. Why did London have to approve it? Undeniably communications were exchanged between the Orkneys and London that concerned the Hampshire before it was blown apart. It is therefore impossible to sustain an argument based on ‘confusion and poor communications’ between the Admiralty in London and Jellicoe in Scapa Flow. They knew and approved the detail of Kitchener’s last journey. There was no confusion.

Questions were soon raised about the choice of HMS Hampshire to carry Kitchener on the Artic route to Archangel. An angry Portsmouth vicar wrote to The Times on 9 June: ‘Is no explanation to be given to us why the most valuable life the nation possessed was risked in an old ship like HMS Hampshire, unattended by any escort?’ [14] This is a valid question. The Hampshire was a thirteen year old Devonshire armoured cruiser which might well have been scrapped had war not found use and purpose for virtually every ship on the high seas. Unlike her sister ship, the Carnarvon, which had been partially fitted to burn oil and coal, the Hampshire was solely coal-fired and consequently, with a bunkering capacity of 1,600 tons, sat low in the water. In February 1914, Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty supplied a written Commons answer to a parliamentary enquiry which listed two hundred and fifty two vessels, ranging from Battleships to Torpedo Boat Destroyers which were oil fired, soon to be oil-fired or partially fitted for both power sources. HMS Hampshire was not included. [15] Yet the old coal-fired, four-funnelled cruiser was Jellicoe’s choice. She would hardly be inconspicuous when steaming at full speed.

The route of HMS Hampshire as specified by Admiral Jellicoe which directed the warship into the minefield.

Thus, HMS Hampshire slipped her moorings in the relative safety of Scapa Flow at 4.45pm on 5 June 1916 and headed west then north into the teeth of a storm. She was to be escorted by two destroyers, Unity and Victor, [16] neither of which had the capacity to cope in the vicious head-on gale. They joined the Hampshire at 5.45 pm and went through the motions of providing initial support for the cruiser. For thirty-five minutes Unity struggled against the odds to stay close, but even with Captain Savill’s speed reduced twice, it was a forlorn hope in the mountainous swell. She was ordered to return to Scapa at 6.20. Victor lasted a further ten minutes in the severe gale, then turned back. By 6.30 pm, the Hampshire was plunging a lonely slow furrow, her decks battened down save for the hatch to 14 mess, like a floating coffin with a single air-vent. Channelled down Jellicoe’s chosen route, past Hoy Sound, tossed and battered by the merciless storm, the given official account would have us accept that ‘unconnected co-incidences’ [17] drew the ill-fated ship into an unknown German mine-field, laid by U-75 just off Marwick Head. Only twelve men survived. Kitchener was not one of them.

That an ‘unknown’ German mine-field lay to the west coast of the Orkney Islands demands examination. Evidence now available demonstrates that vital messages about submarine activity on the precise route that Jellicoe had ordained the Hampshire must take, had arrived at the Naval Headquarters at Longhope on the Orkney island of South Wallis on the afternoon of 5 June. Apparently no-one paid attention. [18] The most prestigious passenger ever landed on Scapa Flow was already at the base and no-one had given instructions to update the commander-in-chief, Admiral Jellicoe, or his senior staff about submarine activity that day on the chosen route? This is unbelievable. Submarine activity in the proximity of Scapa Flow was always given high priority. Few places in the world were more conscious of the danger posed by a submarine. Given the vulnerability of the Grand Fleet after the Battle of Jutland, the disposition of U-Boats was of absolute importance. Failure to immediately alert the senior officers of the fleet to U-Boat dangers was a dereliction of duty which would have merited court martial. No-one was taken to task.

As we have previously shown [19] the Admiralty in London had gained possession of the three major codes used by the Imperial German Navy to transmit information to their ships and submarines before the war was even four months old. The decoders in Room 40 were able to decipher every naval wireless transmission and from these, plot German ship movements and build up detailed profiles on U-Boat commanders. [20] As the German preparations for what would be known as the Battle of Jutland took shape, three ocean-going submarine minelayers were sent to the sea lanes off the Firth of Forth, the Moray Firth and Orkney.

Kurt Beitzen, commander of U-75The commander of U-75, Kurt Beitzen duly laid his mines in five groups of four across the sea-bed on the precise route which Jellicoe selected for the Hampshire. Back in Room 40 at the Admiralty, U-75’s course, and that of its two sister ships, had been detected and decoded. Take stock of this statement. When Kitchener’s journey was being planned and approved at the Admiralty they knew of the risks caused by submarine activity. So too did Jellicoe. Two intercepts from 31 May and 1 June placed the new ocean-going minelaying U-75 west of Orkney. On 3 June, U-75’s movements were transmitted to the Longhope station, and Admiralty records show that three messages logged on 5 June, all timed and dated from the Cape Wrath station, identified a submarine, U-75, at 2.40 pm, 5.15 pm and 7.15 pm. [21] Hampshire had put to sea at 4.45 pm, but was in radio contact with Longhope. Undeniably, Jellicoe had instructed HMS Hampshire to sail into a section known to have been occupied by a mine-laying U-Boat. [22]

These were not the errors of some raw recruit or the hapless mistakes of an inexperienced trainee. Each of these decisions was dictated by Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, commander in chief of the Grand Fleet. It is claimed that Kitchener had been keen to press on with his journey despite the weather, and consequently the Hampshire’s departure was not delayed. [23] Really?

Admiral Jellicoe onboard in calmer waters.

Are we to believe that had Admiral Jellicoe not taken time to explain the debilitating effect of a force 9 storm, Kitchener would have over-ruled his advice? In fact, there was no such discussion. Jellicoe latter wrote that, in his opinion, ‘I did not consider the delay necessary as I should not have hesitated, if need had arisen, to take the Grand Fleet to sea on the same night and on the same route…’ [24]  Of course Kitchener wanted to get underway, but was sufficiently astute to understand the adage ‘more haste less speed’. He was a poor sailor. Claims that blame lay with Kitchener’s blind determination to sail through the cyclonic storm ring hollow. The same might be said of the choice of HMS Hampshire. Of all the options available to Jellicoe, the old armoured cruiser was the least-cost option. Her coal-burning boilers generated both power and steam and had she made Petrograd safely, how many submarine packs might have lain in wait for the return voyage.

In the weeks and months that followed, a great deal of heat was generated by allegations and conjecture about who, outside Britain, may or may not have known about Kitchener’s proposed visit to Russia as if that had bearing on the outcome. One factor, and one alone, did. Whoever knew about the U-75 and its minelaying activity around Orkney, knew that the passage to Marwick Head was a death-trap. Whoever instructed Captain Savill to take the route, must bear some responsibility. But did Jellicoe act alone? How far does the trail of complicity stretch? At the Admiralty there was one man in the inner circle of the Secret Elite whose authority over-rode all else. That was the First Lord, Arthur J Balfour.

But the mystery deepened when the Orcadians shared their shocking experience with the world, and ten years later, when the Admiralty Inquiry was eventually made public.

[1] Kitchener’s interference in munitions and his belief in a fair peace alarmed the Secret Elite leader, Lord Milner and his political allies, Leo Amery, Andrew Bonar Law, Sir Edward Carson and many others. Asquith and Lloyd George wanted rid of him quickly as did the press baron, Lord Northcliffe . These men represented the poisoned tip of an anti-Kitchener lobby which had no public support.
[2] Sir George Arthur, The Life of Lord Kitchener, pp. 349-50, is typical of the misleading notion that the Secretary of State for War was invited by the Czar to go to visit him in Russia.
[3] The Times 1 June 1916, p. 10.
[4] John Pollock, Kissinger, p. 475.
[5] The Times, 3 June 1916, p. 8.
[6] Nicholas A Lambert, Our Bloody Ships or Our Bloody System? Jutland and the loss of the Battle Cruisers, 1916. Journal of Military History, vol. 62, no. 1, January 1998, p. 47.
[7] http://www.battle-of-jutland.com/jutland-gains-losses.htm
[8] S W Roskill, The Dismissal of Admiral Jellicoe, Journal of Contemporary History, vol.1, no. 4 (October 1966) p. 69.
[9] Arthur Balfour was at that point First Lord of the Admiralty. His Secret Elite credentials placed him in the inner core of the secret society. See Carol Quigley, The Anglo-American Establishment, pp.17-18 and 312.
[10] George H Cassar, Kitchener, Architect of Victory, p. 476.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Alexander McAdie, ‘Fate and a Forecast’, Harvard Graduate Magazine, September 1923, p. 46.
[13] Trevor Royle, The Kitchener Enigma, p. 364.
[14] Rev C H Hamilton, The Times, Letters to the Editor, 9 June 1916, p. 9.
[15] Hansard, House of Commons Debate, 18 February 1914 vol 58 cc961-3W
[16] Both vessels were listed in Churchill’s lists of 252 ships to be oil-fired.
[17] The Times, 10 August, 1926, p. 9.
[18] Trevor Royle, The Kitchener Enigma, p. 367.
[19] See blog: Lusitania 1: The Tale of the Secret Miracles, posted 28 April, 2015.
[20] Patrick Beesly, Room 40 British Naval Intelligence 1914-1918, pp. 21-33.
[21] National Archives ADM137 / 4105.
[22] Royale, Kitchener Enigma, pp. 369-70.
[24] George H Cassar, Kitchener, Architect of Victory, p.476. or Royle, Kitchener Enigma, p. 480.
[25] Viscount Jellicoe, The Grand Fleet(1914-1916): Its Creation, Development and Work p.427.

Field Marshal Horatio Herbert Kitchener 6: What’s To Be Done With A Serious Liability?

Lord Derby and David Lloyd George in close conversation. He was a personal friend of George.Inner-core members of the Secret Elite were very concerned. They had erred in their judgement about Kitchener. Lord Milner, especially so. Yes, he had pushed him into the post of Secretary of State for War in August 1914 expecting an entirely different approach from that of the Boer War and in most respects he had been correct. Kitchener was a member of Asquith’s Cabinet and theoretically subject to both collective responsibility and the authority of the Prime Minister. Had Milner been lulled into complacency by Kitchener’s reassurance that the war would take three years or more? He had been the first to predict a long war. Now Kitchener was reported to be talking about a fair peace. He had said so to Sir William Robertson and confided his intentions to Sir Douglas Haig. Worse still he talked about being one of the ‘English delegates when Peace was made’ to Lord Derby. [1] There were no circumstances in which this could be allowed.

Milner had held a grudge against Kitchener that dated back to his Boer War years. He wrote then, ‘Kitchener, a man of great power, is stale. Worse than that, he is in a hurry. Now the essence of the business in its present form [ending the Boer war] is that it must be done gradually’. These words were penned in 1900 in reference to a different war, [2] but in terms of the Secret Elite’s fundamental aim to crush Germany, Kitchener clearly retained a capacity to interfere about which Milner was deeply suspicious.

Kitchener sitting comfortably with the Boer leaders at the Treaty of Vereeniging. Milner was angry at his intervention.

What was worse, Kitchener had taken it upon himself to promote a peaceful settlement to the Boer War rather than the clear-cut military victory for which Milner had so yearned. He had wanted an outright victory in South Africa so that he could recast that country just as Bismark had recast Germany. The idea of peace disgusted Alfred Milner. Peace meant compromise, and there was no room for compromise; not with the Boers in 1902, [3] and not with the Germans in 1916. The Secret Elite wanted to recast Germany and re-affirm the primacy of the British Empire. Kitchener’s whispered ambition put all of that, and more, at risk. He had become a very serious liability. But what could be done?

Lord Kitchener knew that the government wanted him out of the way [4] which naturally made him wary of any design which meant he had to leave the country. At the end of April 1916, Asquith first suggested a political mission to Russia to discuss munitions and stiffen the Czar’s resolve to stand firm against Germany. Originally, he nominated Lloyd George to head the visit and it was suggested that Maurice Hankey might accompany him. [5] Not likely.

Optimised by Greg Smith

That same day Hankey claimed to have heard from the War Office that Kitchener wanted to go to Russia [6] and began lobbying to that effect. He wrote in his diary that ‘K[itchener] likely to accept and likely to ask me [to accompany him] – but I shan’t go.’ [7] Hankey stood his ground and refused. Absolutely; but at the same time he actively lobbied for support inside the War Committee in favour of Kitchener. Keep in mind that theoretically Hankey was just the secretary to the Committee. We now know that he was a key figure inside the Secret Elite [8] whose influence grew by the day. Consider the sequence of events. A mission which began as a putative political visit to Russia by the Secret Elite’s men, Lloyd George and Maurice Hankey began to change its shape and purpose. According to his biographers, Kitchener ‘suddenly announced that he would like to head the mission.’ [9] How convenient. Was this really Kitchener’s idea?

Sir john Hanbury-Williams in Russia

Strange forces were at work and not one of them was sudden. The Secret Elite’s man in Petrograd, Sir John Hanbury-Williams, [10] took steps to encourage Kitchener to travel to Russia. He wrote directly to the Secretary of State for War on 12 May to underline the Czar’s ‘pleasure’ on hearing that Kitchener might come to Russia. [11] That was precisely two whole weeks before the War Committee approved the mission. King George V was the surprised recipient of an upbeat telegram from the Czar on 14 May describing Lord Kitchener’s coming visit to Russia as ‘most useful and important’. Someone had jumped the gun. The King demanded clarification. Twelve days would pass before such a decision was ratified. In the meantime, it was suggested that the Russian Ambassador, having heard that Kitchener might visit Russia, had presented the rumour as fact to the Czar’s court in Petrograd.[12]

By all accounts, written, of course, after the fact, and written to suggest that the Germans knew that Kitchener was destined for Petrograd, his impending visit was allegedly common knowledge by the third week in May. [13]

Interesting. In fact no firm decision had been taken by the War Committee in London. When it was, the arrangements were substantially different. Firstly, Lloyd George was removed from the equation. Out of the blue, Asquith decided that he needed Lloyd George to go to Ireland to settle the aftermath of the Easter Rising. [14] He wrote a very brief note to him in secret on 22 May urging him to ‘take up Ireland: at any rate for a short time’. [15] How strange. Lloyd George had never been involved in Irish matters before.

David-Lloyd-George 1915

In consequence, he made a brief attempt to forge some consensus in Ireland, promising the Unionists that Ulster would be excluded from Home Rule and the Nationalists that any such arrangement would only be temporary. [16] The serpent spoke with false tongue, and slithered out of his Russian commitment. As he put it: ‘Much against my own inclination, I decided that I could not refuse Mr Asquith’s request [to switch his priority from Russia to Ireland.]’ [17] Lloyd George never did anything that was not in his own best interest. Thus, by 26 May it had been decided that Kitchener would go alone accompanied by his personal staff. [18] Allegedly, this was already common knowledge in Petrograd. The evidence suggests otherwise.

Final authorisation for Kitchener’s mission to Russia was approved on 26 May by the War Committee. One day later, Hanbury-Williams was given notice that Lord Kitchener and his staff (including three servants) would set sail for the Russian port of Archangel. [19] Kitchener was clearly keen to meet the Czar but was suspicious of the government’s intentions once he was out of the country. He left Lord Derby with a private code by which he could be informed of any further changes which might take place while he was away. [20] He had every right to suspect dirty deeds. Alerted in early June to the possibility that his proposed visit to Russia might have to be put back several weeks to accommodate the Russian Finance Minister, Herbert Kitchener almost abandoned the mission. He wrote to Hanbury-Williams warning that ‘ owing to the military situation’ he could not spare time later in the year and if the visit was postponed, it would have to be abandoned altogether. [21]

Kitchener was aware of Haig's planned dates for the Somme offensive, July 1916

He knew the timing of the proposed summer offensive in France and was determined to be back at his desk in the War Office before the action began. Here was an unexpected twist. Kitchener was prepared to abandon the mission unless it remained set in its allotted time frame. Hanbury-Williams moved fast. He immediately assured Kitchener that he had spoken to the Czar who ‘repeated twice that he wished you to come’ and thought ‘your visit one of importance and would be of benefit to both countries.’ [22] They desperately wanted Kitchener to go to Russia. But why? If Kitchener was in position to call off the visit to Russia as late as 3 June 1916, [23] it could hardly have been deemed important.

Look what had happened. The so-called political mission by Lloyd George and Hankey to Russia had been transformed into a personal visit to the Czar by Field Marshal the Earl Kitchener. What’s more, the mission was represented as the Czar’s idea. On 26 May Kitchener informed the Russian Ambassador that the War Council had agreed that he should accept the Czar’s invitation to Russia.[24] How clever. At a stroke, should anyone ask awkward questions about the purpose of Kitchener’s visit, the answer was that he had been personally invited by Czar Nicholas II.

Famous last picture of Kitchener aboard HMS Iron Duke, Admiral Jellicoe's flagship.

The Secret Elite agents who had originally been asked to lead the mission had slipped away to concentrate on other ‘priorities’. Kitchener was to go alone. Why?

[1] Randolph Churchill, Lord Derby, King of Lancashire, pp. 209-10.
[2] Thomas Pakenham, The Boer War, p. 469.
[3] Ibid. p. 551.
[4] Churchill, Lord Derby, p. 210.
[5] Stephen Roskill, Hankey Vol. I, 1877-1918, p. 268.
[6] ibid. p. 269.
[7] Nationals Archives, CAB 42/13 4/5/16.
[8] Carroll Quigley, The Anglo-American Establishment, pp. 153-60 and p. 313.
[9] That it suddenly became Kitchener’s idea is promoted by several historians including Trevor Royle, The Kitchener Enigma p. 356 , and in John Pollock, Kitchener, p. 469.
[10] Sir John Hanbury-Williams was Lord Milner’s military secretary in South Africa before becoming secretary to the Secretary of State for War in 1900. He acted as Chief of the British Military Mission to Russia (1914-1917 ) and was instrumental in requesting that Britain attacked the Dardanelles on behalf of the Czar’s government. See blog
[11] PRO 30/ 57/ 67.
[12] Pollock, Kitchener, p. 469.
[13] Royle, The Kitchener Enigma, p. 357.
[14] This was an unexpected request which temporarily took Lloyd George out of the equation for the proposed trip to Russia. He had absolutely no experience of Irish matters. He had always voted in favour of Home Rule and his strange intervention in 1916 changed nothing. According to the Irish historian, Jonathan Brandon, his duplicity sealed the fate of the Irish Parliamentary Party.
[15] Secret letter from Asquith to Lloyd George, 22 May 1916, quoted in Lloyd George’s War Memoirs, p. 419.
[16] Jonathan Bardon, A History of Ireland in 250 Episodes, p. 450.
[17] Lloyd George, War Memoirs, p. 420.
[18] Royle, The Kitchener Enigma, p. 357.
[19] PRO 30/57/67, 27 May 1916.
[20] Randolph Churchill, Lord Derby, p. 210.
[21] Sir John Hanbury-Williams, The Emperor Nicholas II, as I knew him, p. 98.
[22] Ibid., p. 99.
[23] Ibid., pp. 98-99.
[24] Royle, The Kitchener Enigma, p. 358.

Field Marshal Horatio Herbert Kitchener 5: An Act Of Heresy

Lord Kitchener, resplendent in his uniform remained a popular figure with the public and the troops.Kitchener was not a man who relished being sidelined, despite which he remained in office after his role as Secretary of State for War was deliberately subverted by his enemies and detractors in 1915, when he went to Gallipoli to assess the situation on the government’s behalf. Decisions were taken behind his back. As The Times noted, ‘in the absence of Lord Kitchener’ a small War Committee had been set up to co-ordinate the government’s organisation for war. [1] It comprised, Asquith, A J Balfour, Lloyd George, Bonar Law and Reginald McKenna, with Sir Edward Grey available when required, and Kitchener when he returned from his visitation to Gallipoli and the Near East. [2] By late 1915, he knew exactly what he was up against. In terms of armaments, Lloyd George had grasped control of the War Office’s ordnance remit and subsumed it into a new department, the Ministry of Munitions. [3] Strategically, Sir William Robertson was appointed Chief of the General Staff on 21 December, effectively taking charge of strategy on the Western Front. Robertson’s focus was exactly in line with the ultimate aim of the Secret Elite. He advocated the concentration of war in Europe in order to bring Germany down. While lack of success on the Western Front and the failure at Gallipoli reduced Kitchener’s standing inside Cabinet, his popularity within the mass of the populace did not waver. In stripping Kitchener of major responsibility for strategy, Asquith was sufficiently astute to retain him in office.

Maurice Hankey, [4] the Secret Elite’s central cog inside 10 Downing Street, was the prime minister’s confidant and most valued advisor. Hankey had been secretary of the powerful think-tank Committee of Imperial Defence since 1908, and was the most knowledgeable and experienced strategist in the country. In Hankey’s diary for 8 December 1915, he noted that Asquith wanted to be rid of Kitchener who, ‘darkens his counsel and is a really bad administrator, and he evidently wants to find some way of fitting K. [Kitchener] into his scheme so that the Govt. can still use his great name and authority as a popular idol … Personally I can see no way of fitting him in without making him a cipher in every sense.’ [5] This was the problem. How could the high priests remove the people’s idol without losing their credibility? The only answer was to find him high profile but marginal tasks to keep him distanced from the centre of power.

Kitchener and Robertson outside Westminster Hospital in 1916.

But Kitchener had always been his own man. He cared nought for politicians and cast doubt on their capacity to act wisely. He expressed these concerns to Sir William Robertson with honest clarity: ‘I have no fear as to our final victory, but many fears as to our making a good peace.’ [6] Such intentions shook the Secret Elite and especially Alfred Milner. Alarm bells rang in the memory of those who served with Lord Milner in South Africa. Kitchener had interfered then, at the end of the Boer War, to bring about his peace. It had taken all of Milner’s considerable influence to stop Kitchener agreeing a date for the restoration of Boer self-government. [7] Milner had gone to war against the Boers to break the mould and recast the country, not negotiate a political peace. Peace terms implied compromise. Milner had admitted to his acolytes that there was no room for compromise in South Africa. But Kitchener ‘paralysed’ Milner, and in his view, betrayed the peace. [8] Consider again the main objective of the Secret Elite. They wanted to break the mould of Germany and recast the country and its colonies so that it would never again pose as a threat to the British ascendency. Surely Kitchener was not thinking about interfering in a European peace – in 1916?

Did Kitchener really see himself as the arbiter of a good peace? Yes, he did. And there was one very important source which corroborated Kitchener’s intentions. Lord Derby, [9] reflected on Herbert Kitchener’s state of mind in his diary in 1938. [10] Had this been published in the years immediately after the war when the official censor edited, withdrew or destroyed information that the government wanted to keep secret, Derby’s evidence would have been buried. Herbert Kitchener held very strong views that he intended to push to the fore when peace was eventually negotiated. Kitchener confided his philosophy to Lord Derby over dinner some three or four days before he sailed on his final journey. Derby took notes immediately afterwards so that he did not have to rely on memory at a later date. He recorded Kitchener’s absolute belief that ‘whatever happened’, at the end of the war, the peace negotiators should not ‘take away one country’s territory and give it to another’. The fate of Alsace and Lorraine was included in his statement: ‘I think if you take Alsace and Lorraine away from Germany and give them to France there will be a war of revenge.’ He was insistent that Germany’s colonies should not be taken from her on the basis that ‘if they have colonies they would go there peacefully and not want to engage in war for new territory.’ [11] His sense of a ‘good peace’ had nothing in common with the complete destruction of Germany.

Ottoman Empire cartoon from around 1900.

Can you imagine the impact these words would have had inside the closed corridors of the Foreign Office. Kitchener’s sentiments ran contrary to all that the Secret Elite had worked towards. Leave Alsace and Lorraine as part of Germany? Let them keep their colonies? Good grief, would he next advocate the restoration of the Ottoman Empire? He still held influence in these eastern parts, and the British government had great ambitions for Persia after the war. Surely not. Kitchener spoke heresy. Such sentiments stood to undo the war against Germany which the Secret Elite had so carefully planned  [12]

Kitchener had also confided in Sir Douglas Haig [13] that only a decisive victory against Germany followed by a fair peace treaty, would prevent further wars in Europe. He had come to the conclusion that the war should not be about the conquest of Germany. [14] In the eyes of the Secret Elite, he had completely lost focus. Imagine if the concept of a ‘fair peace’ had been leaked to the men in the trenches. That the great man himself was thinking ahead towards peace, had implications for the murderous continuation of war. And not just peace, but a fair peace? To the powers behind the government it was unthinkable. Unimaginable. Consider the impact which Kitchener’s words would have had amongst his armies if in recognising that the war had become a stalemate, he advocated an end to hostilities. If it was put about that the commander-in-chief thought that enough was enough they would have cheered him to the echoes. It would have acknowledged that he thought more of the safety and survival of his own men than the continuation of a bitter struggle to the death with Germany, Kitchener had become more than just a liability. He was a danger to the Secret Elite’s ambitions. His future intentions put everything at risk.

President Wilson's election campaign in 1916 stressed that he kept the nation out of the world war.

Matters were exceptionally sensitive in 1916. There was much talk of peace and peace conferences. Most of it originated from America where President Wilson had an election to win and ‘peace’ was a vote-catcher. The war had reached a point of deadlock; victory was only likely to be achieved by the ‘guerre d’usure’, the war of exhaustion. Certainly, Sir Edward Grey, the Foreign Secretary, was in regular touch with the President through the controlling offices of his White House minder, Edward Mandell House, [15] but peace was not an issue that any of the warring nations could be seen to contemplate. Yet a deal took shape. Mandell House and Grey jointly drafted a confidential memorandum on 22 February 1916 which was confirmed by the President. It proposed the restoration of Belgium, the surrender of Alsace and Lorraine to France, the acquisition of an outlet to the sea for Russia, and compensation to Germany in territories outside Europe. If Britain and France thought the time was right, President Wilson would propose that a ‘Conference should be summoned to put an end to the war. Should the Allies accept this proposal and Germany refuse it, the United States would probably enter the war against Germany.’ [16] Sir Edward Grey had actually worked with Edward Mandell House to construct a memorandum which by definition was a basis for a negotiated peace. [17] By the end of the year Grey would be replaced as Foreign Secretary by Arthur Balfour who was in the inner core of the Secret Elite. [18]

Loos casualties. The luckier few - the walking wounded. Casualties were enormous.

But what to do with Kitchener? He was an enigma indeed. After the horrendous casualties at Loos in September 1915, nine cabinet ministers urged Kitchener to force Asquith to accept conscription, but he would not be disloyal. The Prime Minister warned his Secretary of State for War that this move had been instigated by Lloyd George (whom Kitchener loathed) to undermine him, but added confidently ‘so long as you and I stand together, we carry the whole country with us. Otherwise the deluge.’ [19] He needed Kitchener to take the flack.

In June 1916, Asquith accused him behind his back of abdicating his responsibilities and lying. Undoubtedly it suited the prime minister’s purpose to deflect criticism away from himself. He derided Kitchener’s tortuous speech and his repetitive presentations [20] but was obliged to defend him in Parliament in a brief but brilliant oration which was cheered from all sides. [21] Kitchener, for his part, kept faith in Asquith. Lord Derby wrote in his diary that Kitchener was devoted to the prime minister and liked him very much indeed, which may partly explain why he stayed his post. [22] As Asquith sat down in Parliament on 1 June, the conservative leader Bonar Law leaned forward and whispered; ‘That was a great speech, but how after it shall we ever get rid of him?’ [23]

How indeed?

[1] The Times, 12 November, 1915, p. 9.
[2] Trevor Royle, The Kitchener Enigma, p. 338.
[3] See blog Munitions 4: Lloyd George And Very Secret Arrangements. Posted on 24 June 1915.
[4] Carroll Quigley, The Anglo-American Establishment, p. 313.
[5] Stephen Roskill, Hankey, Vol. 1, 1877 – 1918. p. 237.
[6] Sir George Arthur, Kitchener vol. III, p. 299.
[7] Thomas Pakenham, The Boer War, p. 570.
[8] Ibid., p. 551.
[9] Lord Derby, Edward George Villiers Stanley, 17th Earl aided Kitchener in promoting recruitment. In October 1915, as Director General of Recruitment, he introduced a scheme which included enlistment and conscription. Asquith made him Under-Secretary of State for War after Kitchener’s death. Derby was one of the few politicians whom Kitchener trusted.
[10] Randolph S Churchill, Lord Derby, King of Lancashire, p. 210.
[11] Ibid.
[12] The complete history of the Secret Elite’s drive to create a war with Germany is contained in Gerry Docherty and Jim Macgregor’s Hidden History, The Secret Origins of the First World War, published 2013.
[13] PRO 30/57/53 Kitchener Papers.
[14] Royle, The Kitchener Enigma, p. 348.
[15] Edward Mandell House was President Wilson’s eminence grise in the White House. closely associated with the Morgan financial empire in New York, House was very much an anglophile who advised the President on all aspects of the war in Europe.
[16] Grey of Fallodon, Twenty-Five Years, Vol III, p 63.
[17] Ibid., pp. 68-71.
[18] Quigley, The Anglo-American Establishment, p. 312.
[19] John Pollock, Kitchener, p. 453.
[20] George Casssar, Kitchener: Architect of Victory, p. 474.
[21] The Times, 1 June, 1916, p. 10.
[22] Churchill, Lord Derby, p. 210.
[23] Pollock, Kitchener, p. 471.