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Gallipoli Diary, Volume I by Sir Ian Hamilton









On the heels of the South African War came the sleuth-hounds pursuing the criminals, I mean the customary Royal Commissions. Ten thousand words of mine stand embedded in their Blue Books, cold and dead as so many mammoths in glaciers. But my long spun-out intercourse with the Royal Commissioners did have living issue--my Manchurian and Gallipoli notes. Only constant observation of civilian Judges and soldier witnesses could have shown me how fallible is the unaided military memory or have led me by three steps to a War Diary:--

(1) There is nothing certain about war except that one side won't win.

(2) The winner is asked no questions--the loser has to answer for everything.

(3) Soldiers think of nothing so little as failure and yet, to the extent of fixing intentions, orders, facts, dates firmly in their own minds, they ought to be prepared.

Conclusion:--In war, keep your own counsel, preferably in a note-book.

The first test of the new resolve was the Manchurian Campaign, 1904-5; and it was a hard test. Once that Manchurian Campaign was over I never put pen to paper--in the diary sense[1]--until I was under orders for Constantinople. Then I bought a note-book as well as a Colt's automatic (in fact, these were the only two items of special outfit I did buy), and here are the contents--not of the auto but of the book. Also, from the moment I took up the command, I kept cables, letters and copies (actions quite foreign to my natural disposition), having been taught in my youth by Lord Roberts that nothing written to a Commander-in-Chief, or his Military Secretary, can be private if it has a bearing on operations. A letter which may influence the Chief Command of an Army and, therefore, the life of a nation, may be "Secret" for reasons of State; it cannot possibly be "Private" for personal reasons.[2]

At the time, I am sure my diary was a help to me in my work. The crossings to and from the Peninsula gave me many chances of reckoning up the day's business, sometimes in clear, sometimes in a queer cipher of my own. Ink stands with me for an emblem of futurity, and the act of writing seemed to set back the crisis of the moment into a calmer perspective. Later on, the diary helped me again, for although the Dardanelles Commission did not avail themselves of my formal offer to submit what I had written to their scrutiny, there the records were. Whenever an event, a date and a place were duly entered in their actual coincidence, no argument to the contrary could prevent them from falling into the picture: an advocate might just as well waste eloquence in disputing the right of a piece to its own place in a jig-saw puzzle. Where, on the other hand, incidents were not entered, anything might happen and did happen; _vide_, for instance, the curious misapprehension set forth in the footnotes to pages 59, 60, Vol. II.

So much for the past. Whether these entries have not served their turn is now the question. They were written red-hot amidst tumult, but faintly now, and as in some far echo, sounds the battle-cry that once stopped the beating of thousands of human hearts as it was borne out upon the night wind to the ships. Those dread shapes we saw through our periscopes are dust: "the pestilence that walketh in darkness" and "the destruction that wasteth at noonday" are already images of speech: only the vastness of the stakes; the intensity of the effort and the grandeur of the sacrifice still stand out clearly when we, in dreams, behold the Dardanelles. Why not leave that shining impression as a martial cloak to cover the errors and vicissitudes of all the poor mortals who, in the words of Thucydides, "dared beyond their strength, hazarded against their judgment, and in extremities were of an excellent hope?"

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