The Chanak Crisis, also called the Chanak Affair and the Chanak Incident, was the threatened attack in September 1922 by Turkish troops on British and French troops stationed near Çanakkale (Chanak) to guard the Dardanelles neutral zone. The handling of the crisis by the British cabinet was a major contributor to the downfall of British Prime Minister David Lloyd George. In addition, it was the occasion of the Canadian government's first assertion of diplomatic independence from the United Kingdom. The crisis was a major factor in the creation of the Statute of Westminster 1931, which determined that the Dominions of the British Commonwealth would have independence in foreign policy.
The Turkish troops had recently defeated Greek forces and recaptured Izmir (Smyrna) on 9 September and were advancing on Constantinople in the neutral zone. The British Cabinet met 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.
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:
|“||"Another night a destroyer... stopped a boatload of Turkish women who were crossing from Asia Minor...On being searched for arms it turned out all the women were men. They were all armed and later proved to be Kemalist officers sent over to organize the Turkish population in the suburbs in case of an attack on Constantinople"||”|
The British public were alarmed by the Chanak episode and the possibility of going to war again. It did not help that Prime Minister David Lloyd George had not fully consulted the Dominion prime ministers. Unlike the case eight years earlier, 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. The other dominion prime ministers and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, Kingdom of Italy and the Kingdom of Romania gave no support.
On 23 September, the British cabinet decided to abandon East Thrace to the Turks. On 28 September, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk told the British that he had ordered his troops to avoid any incident at Chanak, also agreeing to peace negotiations by nominating Mudanya as the venue. 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. The Turks may have been persuaded to agree by the arrival of British reinforcements.
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.
British and French forces were ultimately withdrawn from the neutral zone in summer 1923, following the ratification of the Treaty of Lausanne.
- Macfie, A. L. "The Chanak Affair (September–October 1922)", Balkan Studies 1979, Vol. 20 Issue 2, pp. 309–341.
- Ernest Hemingway, Hemingway on War, p 278 Simon and Schuster, 2012 ISBN 1476716048,
- Dawson, Robert Macgregor. William Lyon Mackenzie King: 1874–1923 (1958) pp. 401–16.
- Harry J. Psomiades, The Eastern Question, the Last Phase: A Study in Greek-Turkish diplomacy (Pella, New York 2000), 27–36.
- Darwin, J. G. "The Chanak Crisis and the British Cabinet", History, Feb 1980, Vol. 65 Issue 213, pp 32–48.