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Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Casualties of war

Friday, May 21st., Comarques, Thorpe-le-Soken.

Yesterday I lunched and dined at the McKennas, and learnt a lot about the crisis. Runciman fine. McKenna and Asquith and others extremely hurt and pained by the crisis. Kitchener not very good. Crisis made by Repington's article in The Times. Churchill with French at same time as Repington. Rep's article 'arranged'. Excellent War Office defence against charge of lack of shells, namely that French, knowing circumstances, demanded a certain quantity, and that this quantity was not only supplied but doubled. Fault therefore with leaders at front. French not now liked by the army who want Robertson.
See also, 'War Nerves' - March 27th.


The 'Shell Scandal', as it became popularly and widely known, was generated by publication of the British Commander-in-Chief's view that a shortage of munitions led directly to the failure of the British offensive at Neuve Chapelle in March 1915. In confiding his views to the Times war correspondent, Colonel Charles RepingtonSir John French set in train a political upheaval back home in London. That the British Army were experiencing a shell shortage was not in doubt. British munitions production was not operating at full efficiency nor anything approaching it. David Lloyd George, the Liberal Chancellor, fervently believed that a radical improvement to the munitions industry was not only possible but thoroughly necessary if the British were to compete with Germany in a long war. He did not however believe that the war secretary, Lord Kitchener, under whom responsibility for munitions production fell, was up to the task of delivering the required production overhaul. Lloyd George therefore encouraged the proprietor of the powerful Times and Daily Mail newspapers,Lord Northcliffe, in the latter's determination to publish details of the 'shell scandal' in his newspapers. Northcliffe duly published an article by Repington on 14 May 1915 claiming that the fault of the matter lay with the War Office and in particular with Lord Kitchener. The resultant uproar was not restricted to the political elite. In spite of a growing view in the Cabinet that Lord Kitchener was not well suited to his political role, he was revered in the country at large. Regarded with awe, 'K of K' (Kitchener of Khartoum) the country was not yet ready to believe ill of Kitchener of Khartoum. Circulation of Northcliffe's newspaper consequently dipped. Nevertheless Lloyd George achieved his aim. Even though by this time the bottleneck in shell production was opening up and supplies were increasing, the Liberal government fell on 25 May 1915 and a new coalition established (under the continuing Prime Minister Herbert Asquith). Lord Kitchener remained as minister for war. Within the government a new department was created, the Ministry of Munitions, and its responsibility handed to Lloyd George.

Battle of Aubervilliers of Saturday, 8th., bloodiest of war. Not a defeat because men could not be shifted, but we lost 28,000 men. Operation undertaken against advice of other generals.

The battle of Aubers Ridge was a British contribution to the Allied spring offensive of 1915. It was fought over the same ground as the battle of Neuve Chapelle, 10-13 March 1915, but failed to achieve even the temporary successes of that battle. The battle of Aubers Ridge fits the popular image of a First World War battle better than most. The British troops went over the top early on the morning of 9 May and were cut down by German machine gun fire. The survivors were pinned down in no mans land. No significant progress was made, and early on 10 May Haig ended the offensive. The British suffered 11,000 casualties in one day of fighting on a narrow front.

In evening, after dinner, Hobhouse, Postmaster-General, came in to learn from McKenna his fate, who, however, couldn't tell him. As I had been attacking Hobhouse fiercely in Daily News, McKenna saw him alone in the Drawing Room. I just caught a glimpse of him.

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