The failure of the Somme offensive to achieve the hoped-for victory, together with the defeat of Romania, led to increasing dissatisfaction with Asquith's conduct of the war. The War Secretary, Lloyd George, entered into negotiations with the Conservative leader, Bonar Law in November 1916. Asquith seemed to accept a proposal that a war council of three men would be established, but to the surprise of even his allies, then rejected the scheme. Lloyd George and Bonar Law both resigned, and this forced Asquith to resign on 5 December. Lloyd George had enough support among the Liberal, Conservative and Labour parties to form a new coalition under his leadership.
It had been under Asquith's leadership that some of the key decisions were made to intensify the war, for example the formation of a national government, increased arms production and conscription. Asquith and many of his Liberal colleagues had been uneasy about these developments, but others accepted that extreme measures were needed to win the war. The military stalemate could have led to negotiation or escalation, and both sides chose the latter in the belief that they could land the decisive blow. The choice of Lloyd George to lead the government in Britain signalled the intention to continue the war with no compromise.
(All images are protected by copyright. Please do not use without permission.)
CMD 6231 - Harcourt - 20.12.16, p.2 â€˜If Ll[oyd] Geo[rge] tried to form a Govt. he wd. failâ€™ - Harcourtâ€™s notes of meetings on the eve of Asquithâ€™s resignation, 4 December 1916
CMD 6231 - Harcourt - 04.12.16, fol. 3