Chanak Crisis

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The Chanak Crisis, also called the Chanak Affair and the Chanak Incident, was a war scare in September 1922 between Britain and Turkey. It was caused by Turkish efforts to push the Greek armies out of Turkey and restore, according to the Turkish perspective, Turkish rule in the Allied occupied territories of Turkey, primarily in Constantinople. Turkish troops marched against British and French positions in Dardanelles neutral zone. For a time war between Britain and Turkey seemed possible, but Canada refused to agree as did France and Italy. British public opinion did not want a war. The British military did not want war, and the top general on the scene refused to relay an ultimatum to the Turks because he counted on a negotiated settlement. The Conservatives in Britain's coalition government refused to follow Liberal Prime Minister David Lloyd George, who with Winston Churchill was calling for war.[1]

The crisis in Turkey quickly ended when Turkey, having overwhelmed the Greeks, agreed to a negotiated settlement that gave it the territory it wanted. There was no war. The crisis raised the issue of who decided on war for the British Empire. His mishandling of the crisis caused the downfall of Lloyd George. It was the occasion of Canada's first assertion of diplomatic independence from London. Historian Robert Blake says the Chanak incident led to Balfour's definition of Britain and the dominions as "autonomous Communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of the domestic or internal affairs, though united by a common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations." In 1931 Parliament enacted Balfour's formula law through the Statute of Westminster.[2]

The events[edit]

The Turkish troops had recently defeated Greek forces and recaptured Izmir (Smyrna) on 9 September and were advancing on Constantinople in the neutral zone. In an interview published on Daily Mail, September 15, leader of the Turkish national movement Mustafa Kemal Atatürk stated that: "Our demands remain the same after our recent victory as they were before. We ask for Asia Minor, Thrace up to the river Maritsa and Constantinople... We must have our capital and I should in that case be obliged to march on Constantinople with my army, which will be an affair of only a few days. I must prefer to obtain possession by negotiation though, naturally I cannot wait indefinitely." [3] The British Cabinet met in the same day on September 15, 1922 and decided that British forces should maintain their positions. On the following day, in the absence of Foreign Secretary Lord Curzon, certain Cabinet ministers issued a communiqué threatening Turkey with a declaration of war by Britain and the Dominions, on the grounds that Turkey had violated the Treaty of Sèvres. On 18 September, on his return to London, Curzon pointed out that this would enrage the Prime Minister of France, Raymond Poincaré, and left for Paris to attempt to smooth things over. Poincaré, however, had already ordered the withdrawal of the French detachment at Chanak but persuaded the Turks to respect the neutral zone. Curzon reached Paris on September 20 and, after several angry meetings with Poincaré, reached agreement to negotiate an armistice with the Turks.[4]

Meanwhile, Turkish population living in Constantinople were being organized for a possible offensive against the city by the Kemalist forces. For instance, Ernest Hemingway, reporting for The Toronto Daily Star at the time as a war correspondent, wrote about a specific incident:

[5]

In British politics, Lloyd George and Winston Churchill were pro-Greek and wanted war; the Conservatives in the coalition his government were pro-Turk and rejected war. Lloyd George's position as head of the coalition became untenable.[6] Furthermore the British public were alarmed by the Chanak episode and the possibility of going to war again. It further undercut Lloyd George that he had not fully consulted the Dominion prime ministers. Unlike 1914, when World War I broke out, Canada in particular did not automatically consider itself active in the conflict. Instead, Prime Minister Mackenzie King insisted that the Canadian Parliament should decide on the course of action the country would follow. By the time the issue had been debated in the Canadian House of Commons, the threat at Chanak had passed. Nonetheless, King made his point: the Canadian Parliament would decide the role that Canada would play in external affairs and could diverge from the British government.[7] The other dominion prime ministers and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, Kingdom of Italy and the Kingdom of Romania gave no support.[4]

On 23 September, the British cabinet decided to give East Thrace to the Turks, thus forcing Greeks to abandon it without a fight. This convinced Kemal to accept the opening of armistice talks and on 28 September he told the British that he had ordered his troops to avoid any incident at Chanak, nominating Mudanya as the venue for peace negotiations. The parties met there on 3 October and agreed to the terms of the Armistice of Mudanya on 11 October, two hours before British forces were due to attack.

Consequences[edit]

Lloyd George's rashness resulted in the calling of a meeting of Conservative MPs at the Carlton Club on 19 October 1922, which passed a motion that the Conservative Party should fight the next general election as an independent party. This decision had dire ramifications for Lloyd George, as the Conservative Party made up the vast majority of the 1918-1922 post-war coalition. Indeed, they could have made up the majority government if it were not for the coalition.

Lloyd George also lost the support of the influential Curzon, who considered that the Prime Minister had been manoeuvring behind his back. Following the Carlton Club decision, the MPs voted 185 to 85 for ending the Coalition. Lloyd George resigned as Prime Minister, never to return as a major figure in party politics.[8]

British and French forces were ultimately withdrawn from the neutral zone in summer 1923, following the ratification of the Treaty of Lausanne.

References[edit]

  1. ^ A. J. P. Taylor (1965). English History 1914-1945. Oxford University Press. pp. 190–92. 
  2. ^ Robert Blake (2013). The Decline of Power, 1915-1964. Faber & Faber. p. 68. 
  3. ^ ELEFTHERIA DALEZIOU, BRITAIN AND THE GREEK-TURKISH WAR AND SETTLEMENT OF 1919-1923: THE PURSUIT OF SECURITY BY 'PROXY' IN WESTERN ASIA MINOR
  4. ^ a b Macfie, A. L. "The Chanak Affair (September–October 1922)", Balkan Studies 1979, Vol. 20 Issue 2, pp. 309–341.
  5. ^ Ernest Hemingway, Hemingway on War, p 278 Simon and Schuster, 2012 ISBN 1476716048,
  6. ^ Alfred F. Havighurst (1985). Britain in Transition: The Twentieth Century. University of Chicago Press. pp. 174–75. 
  7. ^ Dawson, Robert Macgregor. William Lyon Mackenzie King: 1874–1923 (1958) pp. 401–16.
  8. ^ Darwin, J. G. "The Chanak Crisis and the British Cabinet", History, Feb 1980, Vol. 65 Issue 213, pp 32–48.

Further reading[edit]

  • Adelson, Roger. London and the Invention of the Middle East: Money, Power, and War, 1902-1922 (1995) pp 207-11
  • Darwin, J. G. "The Chanak Crisis and the British Cabinet", History (1980) 65#213 pp 32–48. online
  • Ferris, John. "'Far too dangerous a gamble'? British intelligence and policy during the Chanak crisis, September-October 1922." Diplomacy and Statecraft (2003) 14#2 pp: 139-184. online
  • Ferris, John. "Intelligence and diplomatic signalling during crises: The British experiences of 1877–78, 1922 and 1938." Intelligence and National Security (2006) 21#5 pp: 675-696. online
  • Laird, Michael. "Wars averted: Chanak 1922, Burma 1945–47, Berlin 1948." Journal of Strategic Studies (1996) 19#3 pp: 343-364. DOI:10.1080/01402399608437643
  • Sales, Peter M. "WM Hughes and the Chanak Crisis of 1922." Australian Journal of Politics & History (1971) 17#3 pp: 392-405.
  • Steiner, Zara. The Lights that Failed: European International History 1919-1933 (Oxford History of Modern Europe) (2005) pp 114-19
  • Walder, David. The Chanak Affair (Macmillan, 1969)