The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East, by Eugene Rogan
The British War Council met in London on 2 January 1915 to consider an urgent war request for assistance from the commander in chief of the Russian army.
As recently as 27 December, the Russians were on the verge of being encircled by the Ottoman Army in the Caucasus. After deliberations, Britain initiated planning for the Dardanelles campaign. Unknown to the British, by the time of this War Council meeting, Russia was on the verge of total victory. Yet, learning of this shortly thereafter, the British decided to forge ahead anyway – as fateful and disastrous a decision as any taken on the western front.
Field Marshall Kitchener was the loudest voice in the Council. He felt a naval operation along the Mediterranean coast would be sufficient to draw Ottoman troops away from the Russians and the Caucasus due to fear of risk to the capital, Istanbul. Kitchener turned to Winston Churchill, the first lord of the Admiralty, tasking him to measure the feasibility of the endeavor. Churchill raised the stakes: more than just bombing coastal positions why not force the Straits and go on to the capital?
The Dardanelles run over forty miles from the Mediterranean to the Sea of Marmara; at the Narrows, the distance between the shores of Europe and Asia is as little as 1.600 yards. The path was strewn with undersea mines.
Admiral Carden replied to Churchill: the Straits could be forced with naval power alone. But by this time, news came of the Russian successes. So the objective changed: instead of going now to aid their Russian allies, the British would go to conquer a weakened Turkey, believed to be on the brink of collapse.
The French promised full…