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Winston Churchill to Admiral Lord Fisher, April 8, 1915
During the first months of World War I, Churchill energetically prosecuted the war at sea, but he soon became frustrated with the emerging deadlock on the Western front. He sent an expedition to attack Germany's ally, Turkey, through the Dardanelles Strait. Frustrated by the Navy's indecisive performance, Churchill drafted this memorandum quoting Shakespeare and Napoleon in an unsuccessful attempt to strengthen the resolve of his most senior Admiral, Lord "Jacky" Fisher.

Object Details:
Holograph letter. Churchill Papers, Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge. U.K. (63.1) © Crown copyright 1915, Archival Reference # CHAR 13/57/3

Related Theme:
The Politician
Image: Winston Churchill to Admiral Lord Fisher, April 8, 1915
8 April 1915



The probability that Italy will join the Allies within a few days raises a question of great importance as regards the Dardanelles attack. If the attack is a failure before Italy had definitely declared war, the repulse of our attempt might have a most prejudicial effect upon her conduct. If she does come in, we probably get the whole of the Balkans in too, and the results need no discussion.

The question is--Is it worth while to risk the attack at this moment? Is it not better to wait a few days, or to divert the attack elsewhere?

If it is practically certain that Italy will come in within a few days, and that she has now decided upon her attitude, I should suggest that the attack be postponed. If, on the other hand, she is waiting for the result of the attack before deciding, there is another operation which we might undertake, which our sea command enables us to do--attack Turkey elsewhere. The place I should suggest is Haifa, to be followed by the capture of Damascus. She is still entirely unprepared for a blow in that part, though she is said to have been making ready at Haifa and Beirut. But as we have openly announced that we are going to take the Dardanelles with our Army, and as our preparations at Mudros and elsewhere can have left little doubt that we are going to do so, it is there that the Turks have now made their main defence, and nothing would be so utterly disconcerting to them as the attack, with our 80,000 odd men in a wholly different region. Hindenburg's strategic railway victories would not compare with it. The success of it would be beyond doubt. Italy's decision would then be placed beyond all shadow of doubt, and the Dardanelles could be dealt with after the Turkish Syrian army had been starved or destroyed. A rising Syria could be engineered to enable our troops to withdraw, which they would do ostensibly for Egypt but really for the Dardanelles, the resistance at which place would be proportionately weaker.

The effect of this surprise blow would be prodigious in Europe; and it is suggested that these two alternative courses deserve the immediate consideration of the War Council.



'And thus the native hue of resolution
'Is sicklied o'er by the pale cast of thought,
'And enterprises of great pith & moment
'With this regard their currents turn awry
'And lose the name of action'

'We are defeated at sea because our Admirals have learned--where I know not--that war can be made without running risks'

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