The Dardanelles Commission was an investigation into the disastrous 1915 Dardanelles Campaign. It was set up under the Special Commissions (Dardanelles and Mesopotamia) Act 1916. The final report of the commission, issued in 1919, found major problems with the planning and execution of the campaign. However, these findings did not have any measurable impact on the careers of those investigated.
Investigation and findings
Winston Churchill had been largely blamed for the failures of the British forces during the campaign since as First Lord of the Admiralty he had been responsible for instigating the plan and obtaining Cabinet approval to carry it out. Churchill had been forced to resign as First Lord, when the First Sea Lord (most senior admiral) Lord Fisher himself resigned, because of escalating disagreements between himself and Churchill in May 1915. Churchill continued as part of the Dardanelles Committee (the war cabinet) which administered the campaign in the capacity of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, but was obliged to resign from this post also in November 1915. For a time he took up a position as a battalion commander on the Western Front (while remaining a Member of Parliament). He returned to parliamentary duty in 1916, where he attempted to rehabilitate his reputation, when the battalion was amalgamated with another.
Churchill sought to obtain the release of government papers which he felt would vindicate his own actions. In May Andrew Bonar Law had indicated on behalf of the Prime Minister that this might be possible, but by June the Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, had decided it could not be done. Matters were complicated by the death of Field Marshal Kitchener, who had been Secretary of State for War, on 6 June 1916. Instead, Asquith agreed to the setting up of a Commission of Enquiry into the affair, which was announced on 18 July 1916. The Earl of Cromer, who was known to Churchill, was to be the chairman. Churchill anticipated that he would be able to attend meetings of the commission, but in the event these were held in secret. Instead he had to be content with giving evidence himself in September, and arranging for other witnesses he felt important to be heard by the commission.
Kitchener was portrayed as a national hero following his drowning in the North Sea on a trip to Russia. This meant that it became part of the good conduct of the war for those involved, not to tarnish his reputation. This restricted the information both Churchill and Sir Ian Hamilton (the general in command in the Dardanelles), felt that they could give to the tribunal.
Witnesses of those involved in the expedition were interviewed, with its final report issued in 1919. It concluded that the expedition had been poorly planned and executed and that difficulties had been underestimated, problems which were exacerbated by supply shortages and by personality clashes and procrastination at high levels.
The following were appointed
- Sir William Pickford; Chairman
- The Earl of Cromer; (died 29 Jan 1917)
- Andrew Fisher;
- Thomas Mackenzie; former Prime Minister of New Zealand
- Sir Frederick Cawley, Bt; Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
- James Avon Clyde, Lord Clyde; Privy Counsellor
- Stephen Gwynn; MP for Galway
- Walter Roch; MP for Pembrokeshire
- Admiral of the Fleet Sir William May
- Field Marshal The Lord Nicholson
- Jenkins p.313-315
- Jenkins p. 314
- Carlyon p. 541
- First World War.com
- First World War.com "Battles: The Gallipoli Front - An Overview". Firstworldwar.com. 18 August 2002. Retrieved 30 August 2007.
- Fisher, Mackensie; Cawley; Clyde; Gwynn; May; Nicholson, Lord; Pickford; Roch (February 1917). "First report (of the Dardanelles Commission) (Abstract)". British Official Publications Collaborative Reader Information Service. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 12 May 2011.
- From: 'Appendix 1', Office-Holders in Modern Britain: Volume 10: Officials of Royal Commissions of Inquiry 1870-1939 (1995), pp. 85-8. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.asp?compid=16611. Date accessed: 12 August 2007.
- Jenkins, Roy, Churchill, 2001, ISBN 0-333-78290-9, Macmillain
- Carlyon, Lee, Gallipoli, 2001, Doubleday, ISBN 0-385-60475-0