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.
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 him and Churchill in May 1915. Churchill continued as part of the Dardanelles Committee (later renamed the War Committee), which administered the campaign in the capacity of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster but resigned 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, Prime Minister Herbert H. H. Asquith, had decided that 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, known to Churchill, was to be the chairman. Churchill anticipated that he would be able to attend meetings of the commission, but they were held in secret. Instead he had to be content with giving evidence himself in September and arranging for other witnesses who 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, which meant that it became part of the good conduct of the war for those involved not to tarnish his reputation. That restricted the information that 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 were exacerbated by supply shortages and by personality clashes and procrastination at high levels.
The report is not seen as having had any measurable further impact on people's careers.
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
- 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