Churchill and the Dardanelles

Winston Churchill was Asquith's 1st Lord of the Admiralty 1911-1915. He formulated a plan for a naval assault on the Dardanelles. The attack, begun on 18 March 1915, was a failure, with several allied ships sunk by mines and the naval bombardment failing to silence the Turkish defences. After fierce debate the First Sea Lord Admiral 'Jacky' Fisher prevailed over Churchill and the naval attack was called off.

The next phase saw the attempt to land troops on the Gallipoli peninsula in April. The Turks had prepared their defences, and the Allies were able only to gain a foothold close to the landing beaches. The military stalemate that resulted, and the increasing losses, led to a political crisis.

Fisher resigned in May 1915 after an acrimonious struggle with Churchill over the conduct of the campaign. The Conservative opposition demanded Churchill's removal from office, and in the ensuing crisis Asquith was forced into coalition.

Churchill stayed in the Cabinet as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, but feeling sidelined, he resigned in November. The failure of the battle of Sari Bair in August led to the withdrawal of forces from the Dardanelles by January 1916. Asquith's papers reveal something of the passion and fury engendered by the campaign, and the personalities that drove policy.

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