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Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill (30 ноя 1874 - 24 янв 1965) The World Crisis Part II 1915

To All Who Tried

CHAPTER XXII

THE RUIN OF THE BALKANS

Lord Kitchener had no doubt apprised the Prime Minister beforehand, and he was immediately invited to make his statement. He told us that owing to the situation in Russia he could no longer maintain the attitude which was agreed upon in conjunction with the French at Calais, i.e. that a real serious offensive on a large scale in the West should be postponed until the Allies were ready. As he put it to us, he had himself urged upon General Joffre the adoption of the offensive. In view of the fact that, as we now know, the French plans and preparations had long been in progress, had indeed never been interrupted, this must have been a work of supererogation. I immediately protested against departure from the decisions of the Cabinet maturely made and endorsed by the Calais Conference, and against an operation that could only lead to useless slaughter on a gigantic scale. I pointed out that we had neither the ammunition nor the superiority in men necessary to warrant such an assault on the enemy’s fortified line; that it could not take place in time effectively to relieve Russia; that it would not prevent the Germans from pursuing their initiative in theatres other than the West; and that it would rupture fatally our plans for opening the Dardanelles.

These views were not seriously disputed, but it was urged that the French would move in any case, and that if we did not march too, the alliance would be destroyed. Lord Kitchener was careful not to hold out any expectation of ‘a decisive success,’ and when pressed to define ‘a decisive success’ he accepted my expression ‘a fundamental strategic alteration of the line.’ ‘There is,’ he said, ‘a great deal of truth in what Mr. Churchill has said, but unfortunately we have to make war as we must and not as we should like to.’

The impossibility of procuring adequate supplies of high explosive shell in time for the battles on the Peninsula had led me during July and August to search for a substitute which could be quickly manufactured. I conceived that this would be provided by masses of bombs fired from the Stokes gun, which brilliant invention had been shown to Mr. Lloyd George and me in June, and of which the Minister of Munitions had, without reference to the War Office, already ordered a thousand.

On September 20 the sinister news reached London that a Bulgarian mobilization was imminent and that Bulgaria was believed to have committed herself definitely to the Central Powers. On the next day the Bulgarian Prime Minister told a meeting of his followers that the cause of the Allies was lost; that Bulgaria must not attach herself to the losing side; that the Quadruple Alliance had only made vague proposals to Bulgaria about the occupation of the uncontested zone after the war; and that if Bulgaria went to war, she was assured of the neutrality of Roumania. At midnight on the 22nd, the Turks signed an agreement ceding the Dedeagatch Railway to Bulgaria; and that same day Serbia signalled with alarm the increasing movement of Austro-German forces towards her northern frontier. The long-dreaded southward thrust was about to begin.

In the first week the Anglo-French attack had secured slight advances of no strategic significance at various points, a few score of guns, and a few thousand prisoners, at the expense of more than 300,000 casualties.

Those who placed reliance on the optimistic accounts of the fighting in France which were supplied by the military authorities here and in France found it impossible to believe that the Germans, faced by such formidable assaults in the West, and extended in immense operations in the East, could spare a new army to conquer Serbia, and they therefore continued incredulous to the last.

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