winnieWinston Leonard Spencer 'Winnie' Churchill (hereafter WLSC) had an amazing war. He strode the dizzy heights of high office and public acclaim. But felt the pangs of public disapprobation, taking the major blame for failed policies of war for which he was not entirely culpable and the langours of the snail-like responses of the bureaucratic process. He also served his country in the trenches of the Western Front and again in the public domain.

A Naval Gentleman

In August 1914, WLSC was 39 years of age with a considerable public reputation as a soldier and author. In 1911, he had been appointed to the post of First Lord of the Admiralty (Minister for the Navy) in the Asquith Liberal Government and still held that post when Britain went to war. In the interim, he had brought about an unprecedented expansion of the British Navy, including the submarine service, and engendered a high state of training and readiness. He also established an Admiralty War Staff to overlook naval strategy and tactics.

On his own initiative WLSC put the Royal Navy into an excellent operational state by ordering its mobilisation on 2 August 1914. This was two days before war was actually declared between Britain and Germany. The British Fleet had already been ordered on 28 July 1914 not to disperse after manoeuvres and had been sent to its war stations in the North Sea on 29 July 1914. It was largely WLSC's forethought that permitted the rapid and trouble-free transportation of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) to France that began on 12 August 1914 and was completed on 19 August 1914. It involved 80,000 men; 30,000 horses; 315 field guns and 125 machine guns.

Also in August 1914, in another audacious move, WLSC, finding himself with a surplus of 30,000 Royal Naval Reservists for whom there were no berths in the fleet, decided to form an infantry force from the 1st and 2nd Naval Brigades and one Royal Marine Brigade. Supplemented by three British infantry Brigades, and totalling 10,000 men, they would serve as an infantry unit in France and Belgium on the Western Front. This force became known as the Royal Naval Division and subsequently, further enlarged, served with distinction on the Western Front and, even later, at Gallipoli.

The entrance into the Cabinet of Field Marshal Horatio Kitchener of Khartoum, as the Secretary for War, strengthened WLSC position as Kitchener was unfamiliar with the ways of politicians and WLSC was only too willing to play the guide.

The first set back for WLSC came when his much vaunted Royal Navy Mediterranean Fleet failed its first test. On 10 August the new German battle cruiser Goeben and its escorting light cruiser Breslau, evaded the chase of the Royal Navy and arrived safely in Constantinople, where they were seen as a potent inducement for the Turks to join in the war on the German side.

Other morale-sapping disasters quickly followed. In September 1914 three British cruisers were sunk off the Dutch coast. In October a dreadnought was lost to a mine off the Northern Ireland coast. And in November a sea battle off the coast of Chile was lost at the cost of two cruisers and 1,600 British lives. A British victory at the Battle of the Falklands in December 1914 was seen as a case of 'about time' revenge.

Meanwhile, on 2 October 1914, WLSC was en route to France to inspect Royal Naval Air Service units and R.N. armoured car squadrons. His train was intercepted in Kent and returned to London. He immediately joined a mini-Cabinet crisis meeting at Kitchener's London home. The Prime Minister informed him that King Albert and the Belgian Government had decided to evacuate the fortified city of Antwerp and to withdraw to Ostend, thus exposing the Channel Ports to dire danger and jeopardising the entire BEF mission. WLSC, strongly supported by Field Marshal Kitchener, Minister for War, offered to go to Antwerp to try and stabilise matters and to encourage the Belgians to hold on for at least 10 days. The Prime Minister agreed and WLSC set off post-haste for Antwerp where he arrived on 3 October 1915 just before the elements of the naval and marine brigades.

WLSC valiantly coerced the Belgians into a reorganisation and the situation was stabilised. He also suggested he be made the authorised military commander of Antwerp, but General Sir Henry Rawlinson was sent in his stead.

On 6 October, Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, somewhat irked by WLSC's grandstanding 'antics', recalled him to London and he arrived in London on the 7th October 1914.

After continuing with a short holding action, and despite all WLSC's efforts at persuasion, the Belgian Government had decided, after just five days, to evacuate the city and relocate to Ostend. Ultimately, the commander of the Antwerp garrison saw that surrender was inevitable and the fortress city was ceded to the Germans on 10 October 1914. Most of the Belgium Army escaped to the West, but around 1,500 of the British force were captured by the Germans or sought internment in the Netherlands. However, a considerable number had escaped from the city and travelled across country to Ypres to join in the battle for the defence of Flanders and subsequent repatriation to Great Britain for reorganisation and further training.

Back in London Churchill stoutly maintained that the action of the ad hoc British force had been worthwhile and had at least ensured the securement of the French Channel Ports of Calais and Dunkirk that were so essential to the continued presence of the BEF on the Western Front.

WLSC's many critics did not hesitate to condemn the whole exercise as ill-considered and reckless and a wasteful deployment of the untried and only partially trained naval brigades.

From this point on, WLSC began to run into a series of difficulties at the Admiralty; some of his own making, others the result of events beyond his control.

The early successes in collaboration that resulted from his recalling to duty as First Sea Lord his predecessor, Admiral Sir John Arbuthnot 'Jackie' Fisher, to replace the 'German-liking' Prince Louis of Battenburg, soon soured. Fisher, with WLSC, the creator of the then modern navy, became annoyed over WLSC's avid promotion of plans for an entirely naval operation in the Dardanelles - the southern gateway to the capital of Turkey, Constantinople and the Black Sea. WLSC's intention was to open a war on two fronts for Germany and make easier the communications with the Russian ally. He also hoped to convince Greece, Bulgaria and Roumania to join the Allied cause.

The Disastrous Dardanelles Operation

The Overture:

During the months of December 1914 and January 1915 there were various discussions in the British Cabinet and elsewhere about the strategic importance of the 65km long and 7km wide Dardanelles Straits and the even narrower Narrows, situated 15km from the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea,. The Straits linked the Mediterranean and the Marmara Seas and thus gave not only access to the Turkish capital Constantinople and its hinterland, but also to the Black Sea and the struggling ally, Russia. The Straits were guarded by a series of Turkish forts, gun batteries and mines laid in the sea-lanes.

From the outset WLSC believed a purely naval engagement should take place to neutralise the Turkish forts in the Straits and the Narrows by gunfire to allow a passage to be forced. And he fought strongly in the Cabinet for this concept. However, many observers doubted the utility of forcing a passage unless continued access to the Straits and the neutralisation of the forts and sea defences could be guaranteed by the presence of Allied troops on the Gallipoli Peninsular.

Nevertheless, WLSC demanded, and got, from Rear-Admiral Sir Sackville Hamilton Carden, Commander of the Mediterranean Fleet, a plan for a naval attack on the Straits and ordered the necessary positioning of naval craft for the eventuality.

On 2 November 1914 Admiral Carden followed another order by Churchill to carry out a trial bombardment of the outer forts and this was achieved with some success. This bouyed up WLSC's and Carden's confidence in the possibility of a successful Dardanelles Operation and spread some alarm amongst the Turkish commanders. Already well aware of their operational weaknesses the Turks immediately responded with fervour to rectify their weaknesses.

fisherIn December 1915 a request for action by the Allies in Turkey came from Grand Duke Nicholas, Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Army. Lord Fisher seized upon this request. He recommended that there should be a military attack from the sea by British and Allied troops; the troops being supported by old expendable battleships of the Royal Navy. WLSC outwardly supported the proposal whilst nurturing the hope that his more naval based approach would eventually be accepted.

Some influential members of the British War Council, faced with the stalemate on the Western Front, welcomed this opportunity for a 'certain' successful campaign. WLSC's self-supportive personal view was, 'Are there not other alternatives than sending out troops to chew barbed wire in Flanders'?

Over the next few weeks the Fisher version of the Dardanelles Operation gained the full support of the entire British War Council and, critically the Chancellor of the Exchequer, David Lloyd George, who stated, 'It will tend to equalise things, and thus give us time to re-equip the Russian Army". Many other nations with differing national aims also supported the plan.

On 2 January 1915 the Russian Government was informed of the decision to stage the Dardenelles Operation.

In early January 1915, WLSC had already asked Admiral Carden to plan for forcing a passage through the Straits and Narrows by warships alone.

A Cabinet meeting on 13 January 1915 was addressed by WLSC who advocated his naval attack version. A war weary Cabinet gave him approval, in principle, to proceed with naval attacks on the Turkish forts in the Dardenelles Straits using old expendable battleships. A provisional date of 19 February 1915 was established for the attack. On The 28th January 1915, the War Council formally endorsed WLSC's plan. Shortly afterwards the French also formally committed their ships to the Dardanelles Operation. Meanwhile, Admiral Fisher and other exponents of the original sea and land concept tried to get it reinstated but were over-ruled by the War Minister, Field Marshal Horatio Kitchener. The seeds of a violent disagreement between Fisher and WLSC were sown.

However, it was also decided that British and Australasian troops, who were already in the area of operations based in Egypt, should be designated as stand-by military support and concentrated on the Greek island of Lemnos. They would be available, if necessary, without having to draw resources from the Western Front. France, not wanting to be left out of any action in this vitally strategic area, also committed to send a Corps of troops: it eventually departed from France on the 10th March 1915. WLSC did not plan to await their arrival before acting.

Act One:

Preliminary shelling of the Turkish forts guarding the entrance to the Straits and its minefields began on 19 February 1915 by a powerful joint British and French fleet of largely elderly warships, but including the new battleship HMS Queen Elizabeth. It was not a great success. Due to bad weather, a follow-up attack was delayed until 25 February 1915, when closer range shelling produced better results and a small naval boarding party got ashore and occupied some of the evacuated forts. But the problem of mobile Turkish batteries, and the presence of the minefields, prevented even closer-up action against them. The ace-card of the Queen Elizabeth's highly effective big guns was trumped by the Turks skilful use of their mobile batteries that forced her to retire to safer waters and out of its effective range.

Mine sweeping efforts continued to be affected by the presence of the Turkish batteries and another foray by the Fleet on 13 March 1915 failed to resolve the situation.

At this point the whole naval bombardment scheme began to unravel.

Discussions had already begun in London on the necessity of the inclusion of a land invasion by troops. General Hamilton was made Commander of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force and the reserve of 75,000 British and Australasian troops already in the operational area were put at his disposal. France, determined not to be left out, despatched 18,000 of its troops.

WLSC, still optimistic about his scheme, ordered Admiral Carden to attempt another passage before the Army could get into the act. On the 17th March 1915, Admiral Carden complied, but he fell ill with stress and, feeling it was a clear case of Checkmate, he resigned.

The Entract:

After some pressure from WLSC, and a precipitate change of command to Vice-Admiral John de Robeck, (Carden's second-in-command) the main naval operation to force a passage through the Dardanelles began on 18 March 1915. It was a joint Anglo-French naval force and the objective was to pass through Straits and the Narrows and into the Sea of Marmara leading to the investing of the Turkish capital Constantinople. WLSC was so sure of total success that he wondered if the surrendered Turkish Army might be, '? willing to serve as mercenaries with the British Army'.

The naval part of the operation proved to be a case of so near but so far. Despite the unresolved presence of mines and the remaining active gun-batteries, six British and four French battleships advanced through the Straits only to be confronted by an undetected minefield that quickly wreaked havoc. Three of the Allied warships - two British and one French - were sunk, whilst three other battleships were put out of action. The attack was halted to the Turks' relief as their ammunition reserves had become almost depleted.

hamiltonFrom London, WLSC urged another attempt for the following day - 19 March 1914 - but a sudden bout of bad weather, and the desire of General Sir Ian Standish Monteith Hamilton - the newly appointed commander of the MEF - with the backing of Admiral Fisher and Admiral de Roebuck, to land troops, meant a postponement was unavoidable.

Subsequently, a decision was made to land a much larger force of troops and this entailed further delay. Hamilton and his staff were planning the British Army's first amphibious landing against a defended shore and were occupied with the organisation and acquisition of paraphernalia that that demanded.

WLSC, whilst continuing to avidly support the second naval attack, had reservations about a large landing of troops at this stage. But as this aspect concerned the Army alone, and the troop landings had Field Marshal Kitchener's specific support, there was little he could do to expedite matters. As the days passed without further naval action, WLSC knew that the chance of a quick result had been lost. The British and French Armies continued their build up of their troops on the adjacent Aegean Islands, whilst the British War Council discussed the division of the spoils that the victory in the Dardanelles would bring.

The bullish impression of the Commander of the 75,000 strong MEF - General Hamilton - about the coming battle was that 'the opposition may suddenly crumble up'. Wiser councils suggested it was 'a gamble upon the supposed shortage of shells and inferior fighting qualities of the Turkish armies'.

Meanwhile, the Turks continued to take the opportunity to beef up their defences in the Gallipoli Peninsular using local labour battalions. They also asked the German Government for help with men and materiél. The Germans seconded an experienced senior officer, General Otto Liman von Sanders, to command the Turkish Fifth Army of 85,000 men and enhanced the flow of munitions and hundreds of German troops through Romania and Bulgaria.

Act Two:

On 25 April 1915 the British component of the force landed on the beaches of the southern point of the Gallipoli peninsular at Cape Helles and established a small beachhead. Only two landings were opposed and at one- V Beach, Sadr Bahr - the British was bloodily repulsed on 26 April 1914. The indecision and vacillation of the British local commander - General Hunter-Weston - delayed its possible recovery by counter attack from the rear until it was too late and the initiative was lost.

A second - the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, ANZAC - force made an inaccurate off-centre landing further up on the Western coast of the peninsular at a beach north of Gaba Tepe; later to become famous as Anzac Cove. Again this landing was totally unexpected by the defenders After some difficulties in negotiating the unanticipated obstacles of cliffs and gullies, some progress was made into the hinterland.

The main French attack went ashore to little opposition at Kum Kale on the Asia Minor side of the Straits.

In view of the limited force available to him, and the logistic problems, including that presented by the rugged coastline, General Hamilton's novel sea-landing plan with two of his six divisions was an inspired one, and not at all what the Liman von Sanders and the Turkish commanders had anticipated. They were almost totally deceived by the diversion landing of the Royal Naval Division at Bulair at the northern end of the peninsular and another by the French at Besika Bay.

However, although taken off-balance, the Turks were not far from the landing beaches and soon organised a ferocious response. Although these counterattacks were not successful at driving the invaders into the sea, all the Allies advances were soon contained and held in small, often vertiginous, enclaves/beachheads combed with closely packed trenches. Such was the dire situation of the ANZACS at Anzac Cove that their commander - General Sir William Riddell 'Birdy' Birwood - formally requested their evacuation. It was refused, and the ANZACS were stuck in their barren Cove and the adjacent hills.

As the summer season approached, it became apparent to all that apart from the clearly underestimated military ability of the Turks ably led by the commander of the 19th Turkish Division Mustafa Kemal (Kemal = 'The Proficient'), the future 'Attaturk = Father of the Turks', the MEF had other equally merciless enemies to contend with: heat; exposure; thirst; tedium and most deadly of all, tropical diseases such as malaria, typhoid and dysentery.

kitchenerBack in London, WLSC lobbied furiously for more troops seeing that without them his grand design could well come to nought. The War Council supported by Kitchener endorsed WLSC views, but on 12 May 1915 Admiral Fisher resigned. He gave the Dardanelles fiasco and the consequent redeployment of Royal Navy warships, as his principal reason; but possibly it was a ploy to get WLSC's job as Navy Minister.

Things were not looking good for WLSC. There was an almost unanimous sentiment that he was the principal architect of the Dardanelles fiasco and it was on him that the blame should fall. As a consequence, when the Prime Minster formed his National Government on 26 May 1915 with the Conservatives, Labour and Unionists, the Conservatives insisted WLSC was demoted from the Admiralty. He left the cabinet to become the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster; a non-Cabinet post with the primary responsibility for appointing Justices of the Peace! This was a terrible blow. WLSC's wife, Clementine, was quoted as saying, 'He thought he was finished. I thought he would die of grief'. Even more galling for him, a complete nonmilitarist, Arthur Balfour, took his place. But it at least kept his foot in the door of influence and he did his best to maintain it by correspondence and networking. He also retained his membership of the War Council, soon to be renamed the Dardanelles Committee.

However, from first to last, the Dardanelles Straits and Narrows remained firmly under the domination of the Turks. Against who there was pitched out of touch British commanders who suddenly seemed to suffer from inexplicable lassitude and an inability to resolve the increasingly grave situations as they arose. On the other hand, the Turks fought a much more inspired campaign under the leadership of Colonel Mustafa Kemal and continued to bring up a constant flow of reinforcements.

The Denouncement:

The fighting continued on the peninsular without any sign of Allied success and increasing demoralisation of the troops under the horrendous conditions.

When the Dardanelles Committee first met on 7 June 1915, WLSC suggested, in view of the diversion of many Turkish troops from other theatres of war to the Gallipoli Peninsula, a further three divisions of British troop should be committed. Kitchener agreed, appreciating the grave situation for perhaps the first time. And the planning for a new offensive began.

Hamilton launched another three-pronged attack on the peninsular in a pincer operation. This involved a diversionary attack at Cap Helles, a breakout at Anzac Cove and a main landing by the three new British divisions at Sulva Bay. The Sulva Bay landings were largely unopposed but there, and at the other sites, the now normal lack of direction from Hamilton's HQ, and the lack of initiative and drive by clearly inadequate field commanders, meant the momentum of the offensive progressively weakened. It came to an effective halt four days later - 10 August 1915.

WLSC was appalled by these obviously poor performances and, pressed by the Allies about the lack of progress, he urged that yet more troops be committed. But needs for troops elsewhere stalled matters and Kitchener diverted 75,000 troops meant for Gallipoli to the Salonika Front.

On 11 October 1915, the British cabinet authorised that Hamilton be asked to make plans for a possible evacuation. His response was negative, stating that total evacuation would involve a casualty rate of at least 50%.

The Dardanelles Committee met again on 14 October 1915 and Hamilton's fate was sealed. By 28 October 1915 his replacement, General Sir Charles Munro, was in Gallipoli with the instructions from Kitchener of deciding whether the MEF should stay or withdraw. After due reflection and, after a tour of the three battlefields, General Monro recommended a total evacuation.

At the request of a still undecided Dardanelles Committee, Kitchener, now suddenly a fervent supporter of yet another naval attack, visited the Gallipoli Peninsular himself. He reluctantly decided that evacuation of Anzac and Sulva beachheads should take place.

With the Admiralty now firmly outside of the influence of WLSC, it decided not to support any new naval attack, and the decision was made for a total withdrawal to begin on 7 December 1915.

WLSC's grand naval adventure was all over bar the shouting. However, he still insisted that his plan was a good one and it had been let down by a dilatory bureaucracy and indecisive staff officers and politicians. By a strange twist of fate, the army officer in charge of the rear guard protecting the evacuation was one Captain Clement Attlee, WLSC's nemesis in 1945.

The Final Curtain:

Meanwhile, having been refused the Governorship of British East Africa on 11 November 1915, and the command of a Brigade in France - Kitchener 'did not want WLSC in his armies' - WLSC resigned from the Coalition Government. He now had other plans vis à vis the War.

Other matters pending

Of course, amongst these concerns with the Dardanelles and the Gallipoli Peninsular, WLSP had had many other preoccupations across the globe. To which was added yet another in August 1915 when Lord Kitchener confided to him that he had, 'agreed with the French to a great offensive in France'. WLSC was horrified, opining that, '?it had no chance'. But Kitchener was determined and a date in September 1915 was set: the location would be Loos in the centre of the coalfields in Northern France. In fact, it began on 25 September 1915 and involved the use by the British of toxic gas - chlorine - for the first time.

Meanwhile, relations with Lord Fisher continued to deteriorate the Dardanelles Operation being a continuing point of disagreement. Fisher had made his feelings on the subject clear when, back in April 1915, he declared to WLSC, in some anger, 'Damn the Dardanelles. They'll be our grave.' For the 46,000 Allies who were to die serving with the MEF in the Gallipoli Campaign, it was a prescient foreboding.

WLSC's fervent imagination, despite his preoccupation with Admiralty business, was still active seeking measures to expedite the winning of the war on the Western Front. In December 1914 he read a British Cabinet memorandum on a proposal by a Lieutenant Colonel Earnest Swinton for an armoured, gun mounted vehicle based on the American Holt caterpillar tractor. He strongly championed this initiative in the Cabinet and, when progress was slow, supported its development with Admiralty funds - hence the project name 'The Landships' Committee'. The vehicle eventually became to be known as a 'Tank' after the code word 'Water Tank' which was employed to disguise its intended use from German intelligence when in transit. Whilst the tank did not prove to be the quick-fix to win the war, its appearance on the battlefield eventually helped to break the stalemate in the trenches and end the war.

Back to the Colours

In November 1915, WLSC decided to do his bit on the Western Front. As a former British Army officer and calvaryman who served with distinction in India, the Middle East and South Africa, often-times as a military correspondent, WLSC was reasonably, but not overly, qualified to take command in the field. He had also been on the Reserve, since 1902, as a Captain in the Imperial Yeomary, The Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars (QOOH).

At his request, WLSC was first posted in December 1915 as a Major to the 2nd Grenadier Guards, an infantry battalion serving on the Western Front, ostensibly for two months training in modern trench warfare. However, only two short periods - 10 days in November 1915 and 48 hours in December 1915 were actually spent in the Front Line. That completed he was promoted on the 5th January 1916. Not as promised by former BEF commander General Sir John French, as commander of a brigade, but as Lieutenant Colonel (Temporary) in command of the 6th Battalion (Service) Royal Scots Fusiliers that were to be located in the Ploegsteert Sector of the Ypres Salient. He retained his commission in the QOOH. This reduction in his expectations caused him some angst and a personal sense of betrayal by close friends - particularly Prime Minister Asquith - and not least because he had already ordered his brigadier's uniform. Others, including his wife, thought that the battalion command was more appropriate as a starter.

Nevertheless, from the moment of his arrival in France, his reception by both the British and French had been an exalted one. For some weeks he lived a rather bizarre life as a celebrity rather remote from the ravages of trench warfare.

After two weeks of 'preparation and smartening up' WLSC finally led his 6th Battalion of the Royal Scottish Fusiliers (RSF) into trenches near the Belgian border village of Ploegsteert - the Tommies' 'Plug Street' - on 27 January 1916. There followed five weeks of the normal alternating periods in the Front Line and Reserve.

Whilst the 6th RSF did not participate in any set battle during WLSC's command, and the fact that at that time the Ploegsteert trenches were in a quiet Sector, he did see some active service, and there are reports of close escapes and some daring escapades. There are photographs of the time, and a portrait by Lavery, that show WLSC in tightly belted battle-dress or trench coat, and usually sporting a French Adrian steel helmet: the British Brodie steel helmet had not yet been put on general issue. However, WLSC quickly perceived the realities of trench warfare and wrote to his wife pessimistically of the task that the British Army had with its weak pre-war base of a small colonial army against the huge and truly professional German continental army.

His reputation with the troops was, after a rather sticky start, excellent. After all, he was by training a cavalryman not used to the ways of the infantry, and it took a little while for him to adjust to their ways. Later, one of his infantrymen said of him, 'A cooler and braver officer never wore the King's uniform and everyone admires him.'

On 7 March 1916, WLSP spoke in Parliament as a serving soldier MP and, despite the poor reception of his speech, dealing as it did - en passant - with demanding the recall of Lord Fisher to the Admiralty, his imminent return to civil life became a certainty. The amalgamation of his battalion with that of the 7th RSF, whose Colonel was the senior, gave him a graceful exit on the 7th May 1916, and from which the offer of the long promised command of a Brigade could not deter him.

'Winnie is back'

After having served on the Western Front for six months, WLSC formally left the Army on 8 May 1916 to return to Parliament in June 1916. He felt conscription into the Army, instead of voluntary service, was key to the proper expansion of the Army and he considered it his duty to expedite its enactment by Parliament.

WLSC's position in the eyes of many of his former politician and military colleagues was very much that of the failed politician. And whilst he poured his energy into his new passion, painting, first with water-colours and then with oils, he also spoke on many subjects (perhaps too many) in the House of Commons, and prepared for his submission to the DardanellesCommittee of Enquiry. This began its hearings in August 1916. But still he longed for an influential post in government.

Firmly of the view that his exoneration for the Gallipoli and Dardanelles fiascos could only come from the findings of the Dandanelles Commission of Enquiry, (renamed the Cromer Commissioner after its Chairman), in September 1916 WLSC made his appearance, concluding his statement with 'the operation ought not to be condemned, even if it was not carried to conclusion, simply on the grounds it might cause risk.' His critics were not mollified.

lloyd-georgeIt was the new Coalition Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, who on 17 July 1917 came to the rescue. Braving strong dissension from the Conservative members, Lloyd George made WLSC Minister of Munitions; a non-Cabinet post. There were hints that that there was more than a suggestion that Lloyd George was following the doctrine later expressed by the US President Lyndon B. Johnson as, 'I'd much rather have that fellow inside my tent p*****g out, than outside my tent p*****g in'.

Once back in office WLSC's, depression quickly lifted and began - as Lloyd George hoped and many of his Parliamentary colleges feared - a whirlwind of activity, which he ardently pursued until the Armistice. He was also a strong psychological prop to Lloyd George who stated WLSC was someone who would? 'cheer him up and help and encourage him, and who will not be continually coming to him with a long-face and telling him everything is going wrong'.

Amongst WLSC's many ministerial projects:

  • He again became involved with the former Landships' Committee development - the tank. However, things had not gone exactly as he had planned. On 15 September 1916, after the mass deployment of 49 tanks at High Wood, during the First Battle of the Somme, he wrote to his former colleague, Admiral Fisher, 'My poor Land Battleships have been let off prematurely and on a petty scale. In that idea resided one real victory'. Modern tank strategists tend to agree with him. On the Western Front, the commander of the BEF - General Sir Douglas Haig - ordered 10,000 more tanks 'urgently'. But many of the influential military strategists still strongly advocated the traditional tools of artillery and mass infantry attacks.
Accordingly, WLSC set about putting things to right.
  • Energetically tackled the problems of bad labour relations in the munitions Industry, not hesitating to personally address and harangue recalcitrant workers' leaders, with some success.
  • Initiated meetings with the Americans to co-ordinate the supply of munitions and opened munitions factories in France to speed up supplies to the Front.
  • Made frequent visits to the Western Front on 'see for myself' tours of the battlefields, including a famous one of 15 non-stop hours with the fearless French Prime Minister Georges 'Tiger' Clemenceau, who, in public, fiercely hugged and kissed WLSC on both cheeks à la francaise. Even to the Francophile WLSC, this seemed a bit over the top.
  • Strongly supported the concentration of resources on the Western Front stating early in 1918 '?The imminent danger is on the Western Front. A defeat here would be fatal?The Germans are a terrible foe and their generals are better than ours'

The trials and tribulations, many self inflicted, faced by Winston Churchill throughout the Great War would have defeated a man without the supreme self-confidence, even arrogance, that he had in himself and his abilities. And even the most 'anti-Churchillians' would have to have conceded that he ended the Great War as one of three best known ministers at a relatively young age of 44.

Fate would determine that just these difficulties would forge the man who guided Britain and its Allies through the dark uncertain wartime days of 1940 - 1945.

In November 2004, Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was voted as the Greatest Briton of All Time in a nation-wide BBC television poll that received 1 million votes.

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