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Image: Winston Churchill to the Duke of Marlborough, January 22, 1916
Winston Churchill to the Duke of Marlborough, January 22, 1916
Although the duties of a battalion commander in the Sixth Royal Scots Fusiliers took up most of his time, Churchill continued to give careful thought to British domestic politics as well as the overall course of the war. This letter displays his disgust with the policies of his former colleagues. The Germans, Churchill believed, had managed to fool British leaders into dispersing their forces even as they lured them into breaking "our teeth on their tremendous defensive lines in the West & in Russia."
Object Details:
Holograph letter. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (70)

Related Theme:
Warrior for Empire


My dear Sunny,

Your letter was very welcome, and will I hope be repeated. I must write to old Morley. He responds to attention, but he c'd not reasonably expect me to oppose the war of leave the gov't on its declaration. "My propensities were all the other way."

I have been commanding this battalion for the last 3 weeks, & now in a few days I shall take them into the line. I have paid a couple of visits to the trenches & they are the best & most comfortable I have seen, in what is now a large & varied (examination?) of the front. They are dry, well supplied with dugouts, good communications, good wire, & minor conveniences. Our battalion H.Q. will be in a farm about 500 yards from the front line. Few of the buildings in this area are much knocked about but this farm has been hit a good many times & is a target. This is the blemish on an otherwise harmonious scheme. When we go into ‘rest' we only retire about 1500 yards, and so we shall dwell for the next few months continually within range of the enemy's artillery, field as well as heavy. Things are however fairly quiet at present on this sector; tho' no doubt we shall stir them up a bit. We shall not be far away from that wood in which you used to take an interest in the early days of the war. The battalion is one of the 9th (Scottish) division which fought heroically at Loos, storming the German trenches with a loss of 6000 men out of about 9000 engaged. It is in consequence shattered & only 2 officers who were present in the battle are still on duty. I have no regular officers (except Archie Suielaei/Swilaei?) who I brought with me & made 2nd in command) & hardly an officer over 25 years. The average must be about 231/2. I have 1g 2nd Lieuts. Re. these circ's. you will realise that my task is not an easy one, & that a very great deal of labor & responsibility will fall on me when we are actually in contact with the enemy. The battalion has improved since I came & the utmost loyalty & wish to do right characterizes everybody, & I am hopeful that we shall get in all right. But think what the professional soldiers will have said 2 years ago of a battalion so composed & efficient.

I watch politics as through a reversed field glass. L.G. seems after all his manoeuvres to be quite isolated & kept in control. He was foolish to throw me over for together we were a power. Asquith flourishes like the green bay tree, & everything looks like holding together for some time to come. Meanwhile so far as I understand it the policy continues to be unwise. We are locking up a large army at Salonika whose only rĂ´le seems to be to make enemies of the Greeks & to prevent the Turks & Bulgars from falling out. We are locking up another large army in Egypt, which K[itchener] and EG [Edward Grey] have got on the brain. The German game is a clear one. They should continue to frighten us at both places with the expectation of an attack & do their utmost to push large Turkish forces to Mesopotamia & Persia & rouse the East against us. Meanwhile they should invite us to break our teeth on their tremendous defensive lines in the West & in Russia. There is every reason to believe they will take this extremely obvious & disagreeable course, & that we shall continue to do at each stage exactly what they wish & need us to do. However I am not going to let myself be fretted by events I cannot control & of which my news may at any moment be cut off.

With every good wish,

Your affectionate cousin


P.S. How lucky Cornelia is with her children. Chelmsford was as an extraordinary choice. But I daresay he will do it very well.
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