British Policy on Fourth Greek War of Liberation

Discussions on the final era of the Ottoman Empire, from the Young Turk Revolution of 1908 until the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923.
NikosV
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British Policy on Fourth Greek War of Liberation

Post by NikosV » 05 May 2007 20:33

The basic difficulty was still to ascertain the true position of the Greeks. Lord Curzon undertook to invite Veniselos to London. Lloyd George asked Sir Henry Wilson to send an officer to make a special report on the Greek army, but not, however, until Veniselos had been sounded 'as to how such a proposal was likely to be received by the present Greek government'. Lord Curzon expressed his willingness to go to Paris to discuss the whole question with the French government. It was decided, as Wilson had informed the Committee, that 'there was no day-to-day danger' at Constantinople, that the forces there should not be reinforced at present. Finally, reference was made to the situation in Afghanistan, where it was thought that now that 'Kemal had thrown in his lot with the extremists and Bolsheviks' the rulers in Kabul would be more disposed to favour the British.
The most interesting point about this Cabinet Committee meeting was the consideration of a letter from Winston Churchill to the Prime Minister which contained a number of proposals. The letter was dated June 2nd, 1921, and read as follows:
141
My dear Prime Minister,
I am trying to sum up in a short space what I think we ought now to do about the Middle Eastern situation. I do not go into the past, but we are now very nearly at the end of our means of dealing with it. I do not feel sure that it is not too late, whatever we do, to retrieve the position. We are drifting steadily and rapidly towards what will in fact be a defeat of England by Turkey. That is a terrible thing to happen, undoing all the fruits of the victories we have gained and exposing us to disastrous consequences through all the large Middle Eastern provinces where we are so vulnerable. The only hope I see lies in the following course of action, which I put forward on the assumption that the situation is not altered decisively one way or the other by the battle believed to be impending between the Greeks and the Turks.
(I) Go to the Greeks at once and demand from them—
(a) Their acceptance of the terms which we prescribe. (What these terms should be will be mentioned later.)
(b) The reorganisation of their army in accordance with British advice.
(c) Accept British military guidance in their dispositions, which should comprise without delay a backward concentration much nearer the Smyrna coast.
(d) A division of troops for Ismid and another for the Dardanelles under General Harington.
Offer the Greeks, subject to the above, the support of Britain—
(e) Moral.
(f) Naval.
(g) Munitions, (h) Credit.
Tell them that unless they accept these conditions we shall—
(i) Disinterest ourselves absolutely in their future. (j) Hold ourselves perfectly free to make any arrangements with the Bulgarians or Turks calculated to
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safeguard our position in regard to Constantinople and to keep the Straits open.
(2) If the Greeks accept—and they must do so within about the next ten days—send someone like the Aga Khan to Mustapha Kemal to say 'We are willing to make peace with you, and between you and the Greeks on the terms set out below, and, in addition, to extend British friendship and commercial assistance to Turkey. If you do not within a brief period of time accept these terms, we shall make operative the arrangements set out in paragraph (I) with the Greeks.'
(3) Reinforce Constantinople with every available man and ship.
(4) Tell the whole story quite plainly to the French, inviting their co-operation in the plan both by joining us in the diplomacy and by reinforcing Constantinople. Make it perfectly clear to them that if they fail to help us in this matter it will be another disastrous episode in the Alliance and force us more and more to reconsider our general position. (I think you will find the French are genuinely disturbed at the undue growth of Kemal's power and demands, and that there has been a great change of attitude in the last few weeks.)
(5) Now for the terms. I think they should be the recent London terms, as modified in detail by your later understandings, plus the evacuation of Smyrna by the Greek troops, with special guarantees to Christians. I do not think there is any chance of getting peace without the evacuation of Smyrna. The fact that we are ready to countenance it will prove to the French the sincerity of our desire for peace with Mustapha Kemal and make them more ready to co-operate with us.
(6) Before you reject this unpalatable view, I hope you will realise what the alternative is in the absence of some great Greek victory:
(i) The Greeks will either be driven out of Smyrna or else kept defending it at great expense so long that they will be ruined.
(ii) We shall have to leave Constantinople very quickly and in circumstances of humiliation.
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(iii) The French will invite Mustapha Kemal to come
into Constantinople and try to curry favour with
him there. The Italians will support the French.
(iv) Mustapha Kemal will return to Constantinople or
send his agents there. He will raise a considerable
army out of the discontented and desperate men
who throng the city. In his own time he will
attack and re-conquer Thrace.
(v) We shall not be able to hold our position on the
Gallipoli Peninsula. It is much too large to be
held except for a very short time by the forces
which we can afford to supply.
(vi) We shall be disturbed in Mosul, the reduction of
troops will be arrested, and I shall have to come
to Parliament for a very heavy Supplementary
Estimate. We may even have a general rising there.
The same applies to Palestine, where Arabs and
Turks will easily make common cause against us
in consequence of the Arab hatred of Zionism.
Egypt you have got on your hands already. Then
there is the Afghan position.
(7) I now learn that the League of Nations wish to
postpone the Mandates for Palestine and Mesopotamia until
the Americans are satisfied, i.e., indefinite postponement.
I ought to warn you that if this course is followed, and if at
the same time the Turkish situation degenerates in a
disastrous manner, it will be impossible for us to maintain
our position either in Palestine or in Mesopotamia, and that
the only wise and safe course would be to take advantage
of the postponement of the Mandates and resign them both
and quit the two countries at the earliest possible moment,
as the expense to which we shall be put will be wholly
unwarrantable.
Yours, etc.,
WINSTON S. CHURCHILL
The Cabinet Committee 'felt, however, that it would be
useless to approach the Greeks with an offer of this kind'.
The third meeting took place not in the Prime Minister's
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Walder, David. The Chanak Affair. The MacMillan Co. (UK, 1969) pp. 141-144.

Even though they decided it inopportune to send this nasty letter it reflects well the British policy at the time. Later they did go effect such a threat totally abandoning Greece, after the Greek miltiary made a desperate attempt at Constantinople:
"By midsummer of 1922 the Turks were thoroughly rested and equipped, and their passions properly inflamed to a fever pitch At the same time the Greek leaders, realizing that their army could not survive another winter, devised a plan whereby they would amalgamate their forces and make a quick thrust for Constantinople. It was, as Churchill has written, "a shrewd stroke," which would allow them a safe retreat. They knew full well that their occupation of the capital would be only temporary: in fact they wanted nothing more than to be asked to withdraw Their request for Allied cooperation got no further than General Harington, the commander of the Allied military forces and an Englishman Admiral Bristol admired. "You of course have read of the Greeks attempting to take Constantinople," Bristol wrote to a friend on August 31. "I think they would have done it if it hadn't been for General Harington, who acted on his own hook and blocked the game. So thus the Allies, with Turkish gendarmes. are facing their own ally, the Greeks, on the Chataldja line. It is a ridiculous situation." Thanks to the General's initiative the last desperate gamble had failed, leaving the Greek position the weaker by two divisions.
In the greatest secrecy Kemal prepared to seize the moment. Beginning at the end of July, he moved around the Turkish fronts on the pretext of attending a football match at one place, meeting with a British general at another. On August 6 he returned to Angora, and when he left again, on August 13, only his closest associates knew that he was gone. "They had even to publish in the papers that I had given a tea at Chankaya," he said later.
In mid-August Kemal and his generals had their plans coordinated. On their military maps were plotted the positions of all the Greek forces: regiment by regiment, division by division. By feinting attacks to the north and south of the Greek line at Afyon Karahissar, he weakened the main line and prepared to attack along a fifteen-mile front. The order of the day for August 26 began: "Soldiers, your goal is the Mediterranean!"
They struck at dawn, taking the Greeks unaware and smashing their lines with such dispatch that the headquarters troops, caught between the Turkish First and Second armies, never had a chance to fire their guns. The Turks annihilated five Greek divisions and captured fifty thousand prisoners. To the north, the Third Greek Corps fled toward Mudanya, where ships awaited them on the Sea of Marmara. There they were met by the French, who blocked their escape on the pretext that they were in a neutral zone. This was untrue, and the commanders of two Greek regiments, who knew it, managed to lead their men through the hills to Bandirma. The rest surrendered to the French, who turned them over to the Turks.
South of Afyon Karahissar, the Greek Commander-in-Chief, General Tricoupis, tried vainly to lead a counterattack and was captured by Turkish cavalrymen on September 2. The Greek retreat had by then turned into a rout, and his men were already in flight. There was no longer any pretense of organization or command as demoralized Greek officers thought only of escape. Soldiers threw down their ammunition and pushed blindly toward the sea, gathering tens of thousands of Greek civilians in their wake."
Housepian, Marjorie. The Smyrna Affair. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Inc. (New York; 1971) pp. 84-85.

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infantry
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Post by infantry » 05 May 2007 20:45

Dear Nikos,
Try Ernest Hemingway's book about his experiences as a journalist during his stay in Istanbul -sorry I forgot the exact title. He even made use of this experience in his famous novel "The Snows of Kilimanjero" in which the main character talked about his experience as a British artillery expert with the Greek army.

I also remember coming across this issue in Greek official military history -of course I read the English volume which is the summary of five or six volumes.

Regards
Regards

NikosV
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Post by NikosV » 05 May 2007 21:10

I have read some essay of Hemingway when he was witnessing the population exchange. It was not very good or descriptive. Generally consulting journalists is a waste of time unless they spend like 10 years in a foreign nation and they have a talent for giving an account of a foreign mentality/Weltanschauung.

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Bill Woerlee
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Post by Bill Woerlee » 05 May 2007 23:38

Nikos

G'day mate

Good posts and interesting material.

However:
Generally consulting journalists is a waste of time unless they spend like 10 years in a foreign nation and they have a talent for giving an account of a foreign mentality/Weltanschauung.
Heck mate, if we did this there would be no world news at all. A journalist can report on what is witnessed regardless of the time spent in a country. After all, it is only an eye witness account. It is up to folks like you with the specialised knowledge to give it context. Everyone has a job to do and journalists should do what they do best - provide markers in history. Historians are then able to recover them when sufficient time has passed and so put the markers into a dispassionate discourse.

Cheers

Bill

NikosV
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Post by NikosV » 05 May 2007 23:49

Sometimess journalists are a good source. Most of the time they are never are.

Too many people in real life only read newspapers and never seriously researched historical studies. Historical research can tell you the real policies of a government at a point in time thanks to released documents, journalists can only make myths by popularizing the justifications of a government and leave historians to battle against these popular myths later. And historians always lose these battles since few people ever read scholarly historical books compared to the ridicilous numbers of people who read newspapers everyday.

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Peter H
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Post by Peter H » 06 May 2007 03:58

I see no proof that Kemal got disposition plans from a British general.
Beginning at the end of July, he moved around the Turkish fronts on the pretext of attending a football match at one place, meeting with a British general at another.
The pretext of meeting a British general was an excuse for his recon trip.Otherwise no elaboration is given on if such a meeting occured or what was discussed.

In mid-August Kemal and his generals had their plans coordinated. On their military maps were plotted the positions of all the Greek forces: regiment by regiment, division by division.


Thats called good military intelligence.The porous Greek front allowed observations to be made,spies utilised,POWs and deserters to be questioned.


The Greek invaders were very unpopular by then.As early as June 1919 Greek and Italian had fired upon each other at Cherkes Keuy.The French General Bathelemy is said to have "supplied the Turks with information as to the Greek forces" as well,but this was in 1920.

Source: http://www.archive.org/details/TurkeyIn ... ANewNation

NikosV
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Post by NikosV » 06 May 2007 04:11

That is because you rely to much on the internet apparently. The Greco-Turkish war was not a real war. The Allies were intervening between the two sides from the start. Greece only had a mandate over Smyrna and sent troops to defend this mandate. Constant Kemalist guerilla attacks forced Greece to ask Allied permission to extend this mandate to take the war to the Kemalists on their territory. Greek frustation at the Allies, especially the French and Italian and their barrely concealed open support of the Kemalists made them make a huge gamble on Constantinople. After this the British completely abandoned Greece and a British general met with Kemal and the Kemalists offered troops to Harrington.

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Peter H
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Post by Peter H » 06 May 2007 05:45

Your own biased interpretation of secondary sources is apparent.

I can see nothing that states that "Kemal meet with a British General who passed onto him plans of the Greek dispositions".

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infantry
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Post by infantry » 06 May 2007 11:00

Dear Nikos,
I guess you have little faith in classic sources of the war. I already suggest yo to read your government's official military history of the war. I only managed to read its English summary but even that summary is enough to give an understanding that the main problem had nothing to do with Brits but something to do with Greek high ranking especially CiC General Hacianesti. I read the memoir of General Trikopis and two others -sorry I forgot their name- in none of them you can come across any hint related with Brits colloboration with Turks.

Why I suggest you to read Hemingway? Because he is giving the frustration of British military advisors with their Greek units and officers.

Reference to your remark that it was not a war. Than what it is thousands perished, maimed, whole western Anatolia was burned down. I strongly advise you to read the findings of the independent military commission to investigate the occupation of Izmir. It was prepared just before the start of Greek assault beyond Milne line. In addition to the massacres and other crimes the report authors clearly stated the futulity of any major invasion plans.

Regards

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