Exercise 1: Document Analysis

Churchill's resignation speech

Extracts from text of Churchill's speech on resigning from the Government, House of Commons, 15 November 1915.

Given as reported at the time. Crown copyright. Churchill's original speaking notes can be consulted at the Churchill Archives Centre. Reference: Churchill Papers, CHAR 9/51.

". . . I have gone through this story in detail in order to show and to convince the House that the naval attack on the Dardanelles was a naval plan, made by naval authorities on the spot, approved by naval experts in the Admiralty (the Government department administering the Royal Navy), assented to by the 1st Sea Lord, and executed on the spot by Admirals who at every stage believed in the operations [and were confident and are still confident of success]. I am bound, not only in justice to myself, but in justice to the Fleet, who require to know that the orders sent to them from the Admiralty are those which carry the highest responsible professional authority, I am bound to make that clear. [While I am willing to bear any responsibility which I may properly assume, and certainly ready to take the blame for anything that goes wrong,] I will not have it said that this was a civilian plan, foisted by a political amateur upon reluctant officers and experts . . . All through this year I've offered the same counsel to the Government; undertake no operation in the West, which is more costly to us in life than to the enemy. In the East, take Constantinople; take it by ships if you can; take it by soldiers if you must; but take it, and take it soon, and take it while time remains. The situation is now entirely changed, and I am not called upon to offer any advice on its new aspects. But it seems to me that if there were any operations in the history of the world which, having been begun, it was worth while to carry through with the utmost vigour and fury, with a constant flow of reinforcements, and utter disregard for life, it was the operations so daringly and brilliantly begun by Sir Ian Hamilton in the immortal landing of the 25th April. That is all I have to say about the Dardanelles."

NB: sections in square brackets are phrases that appear in Churchill's draft notes but not in the final speech as reported.


Questions

  1. On what basis does Churchill say "I will not have it said that this was a civilian plan foisted by a political amateur upon reluctant officers and experts"?
  2. What does Churchill mean by "I am not called upon to offer any advice upon its new aspects"?
  3. What tone is conveyed in this speech by its use of language and sentence structure?
  4. Why do you think Churchill deleted the sections in square brackets?
  5. To what extent is Churchill accepting responsibility for the failures of the Dardanelles campaign?
  6. How accurate is Churchill's presentation here of his role in the Dardanelles campaign?