British & Greek Alliance

The trio behind the invasion and destruction of Smyrna and Anatolia:  D.Lloyd George, Basil Zaharoff and  Eleftherios Venizelos


Byron, who had sufficient detachment to turn thee waxen—hot material of romantic love into cool, classic columns of marble  verse, became a stuttering, love—sick swain where  Greece was concerned, He symbolized that uncritical passion for Hellenic ideals which spasmodically during the past 150 years has colored and permeated the British political outlook towards Greece.

Yeats once said that the Irish problem could be solved tomorrow, if only the English would believe in fairies ‘‘. Yet the Celtic pixies were rejected as a sign of Irish immaturity, while the Hellenic fairies were raised to the status of goddesses. The classicists of England have not been content to inspire a deep sense of gratitude for Hellenism, but have sought to mislead us into viewing an unstable nation of merchant adventurers and political buccaneers as the arbiters and defenders of liberal democracy. When Liberalism followed the pipes of Pan, and Gladstone’s love of Homer made him the greatest Hellenist of them all, that hard—headed school of Mancunian Liberals began to realize there was sound commercial sense in pursuing a pro—Greek policy. This, coining from tile greatest power of the nineteenth century, not un-naturally flattered Greece into believing she had an imperialist future as well as a past.

So the aesthetes and classicists joined forces with the cotton and corn exporters. Thanks to this and to the wars between tile great powers between 17 76 and 1815 the Greeks had become the chief merchandise carriers of the Mediterranean and even monopolized the Black Sea trade. Achieving financial dominance out of all proportion to her status as a nation, Greece nevertheless kept lien people on the lowest standard of living in the whole of Europe.  She became a prime example of how private economic adventuring cannot provide national prosperity.

The tentacles of the Greek merchants and bankers extended to Britain, France, Italy, Austria, Turkey and Russia. Italian shipping was largely in Greek hands; Athens had a virtual monopoly of the grain trade in the Black Sea. Cobden’s pro-Hellenism can be traced to his interest in the exchange of calico for corn; the mid—nineteenth century Liberals backed Greek nationalism largely in the interests of the Baltic Corn Exchange. There was a commercial alliance of the Gladstones of Liverpool, the Rallis of Chios, the Benachis and Rodocnachis of the Nile Valley cotton fields.

It can be argued   that British policy towards Greece brought great practical results t between 1900 and 1914. The Greeks played a useful part in bringing about the Entente Cordiale. But t the Entente’s only lasting monument was the Franco-British alliance, and in 1919 -22 this was seriously impaired by the pro—Greek policy of the Lloyd George Government.

Greece, or rather the group of merchant adventurers who repsented her, was clearly working for a form of economic imperialism a hundred years ago. As long as Greece remained a vassal to Western European capitalism, Greek nationalism was not mentioned as such, but the domination of the Balkans was the ultimate aim. The position at the beginning of the First  World War was that Greece, despite  the prosperity of her merchant-bankers, was short of funds. She had been exhausted by a Series of wars, even though Zaharoff was said to have subsidized the Greek Government to the extent of 20,000 pounds a month when he was equipping the Balkan armies for their onslaught against the Ottoman Empire. But neither Venizelos, the architect of Greek nationalism, nor his ally, Zaharof, lost sight of the chance that World War I offered them eventually a chance to recoup their losses and win even greater domination.

The Britishi Foreign Office never  trusted Venizelos, whom they regarded as sly, crafty and sellf-seeking, whereas  Lloydl George developed a real affection for the Cretan.

In the beginning Lloyd George’s feelings about Greece were purely sentimental and based on the prospect of a small and mountainous country wishing to be united with its brethren across the borders. He had an affinity for mountain races like the Greeks and Albanians. But more personal influences were to carry greater weight in his policy towards Greece. I Es interest in that country had been stimulated by Zaliaroff and by Domini, Lady Crosfield, the Greek wife of Sir Arthur Crosfield, Liberal M.P. for Warrington. He admired the business acumen of the cotton merchants whom he regarded as Britain’s best allies in Egypt, and his high opinion of Venizelos may be judged by the fact that lie once described that: statesman as the Lloyd George of Greece”.

At the end of the war Venizelos and Zaharoff were united in one aim—the spread of Greek influence in Europe and Asia and the creation of a Greek empire in the Near East. In Zaharoff: the Armaments King, Robert Neumann wrote: “Through Lloyd George, Zaharoff had the same influence with the British Government as he used to have with the French.’’  This was a theme constantly echoed in the French Press in the early twenties: ‘‘France once again has become the shield of Islam. And if England has reckoned up the price which it will have to pay from India to Egypt for a policy of Zaharoff, it will no doubt realize that it must again conclude peace with Islam. Then it can count on our good services.’’

At a secret meeting in his Paris house during the Peace Conference, Zaharoff told Lloyd George he had made preliminary arrangements for valuable concessions in the Middle East to British firms. The first of these was for industrial development: in Rumania, which Sir Basil, as representative of Vickers and a close friend of Queen Marie, had obtained. The second was a concession granted to the Anglo—Persian Oil Company to exploit: petroleum wells in Greek Macedonia.

Well might M. Poiticare have talked about ‘‘ the stink of oil”. Lloyd George was delighted with the news Zaharoff gave him and extracted a further promise that British firms should receive preferential treatment from King Constantine’s Government in and around the ‘‘free” town of Smyrna. By this means Zaharoff won from Lloyd George a promise of full backing for any claims Greece might wish to make: it amounted to a blank cheque fur the armaments agent.

Once he was embroiled with Zaharoff Lloyd George was automatically in trouble with the French, with whom the arms magnate was now on the worst possible terms largely through his own double- dealing. One of the British Premier’s first aims was to sabotage the Sykes—Picot plan, to which Zaharoff, as we have seen, strongly objected, by provoking a rupture with France’s secret agreement of May, 1916, shared out the territories of tile then unconquered Turks among the powers of the Entente. Russia was to have the Dardanelles, Constantinople and a large area around Erzurum and Trebizond.

Britain was to have the vilayets of Basra and Baghdad; France was to have Cilicia, a large part of Upper Mesopotamia and the coastal regions of Syria, including Alexandretta, down to a point near Acre, with Mosul included. Italy and not Greece—was to have Smyrna and some of Southern Anatolia. Palestine was to be a condominium of Britain, France and Russia. The concessions to the Italians were added later because the original agreement: had been concluded without their knowledge which, not unnaturally, drew from them angry  protests. Nothing was promised to Belgium, Montenegro or Serbia.

It was the Bolsheviks who upset this secret ‘‘package’’ agreement by r publishing details of it after they had discovered a copy of the terms in the archives of the Czarist Government. The Sykes-Picot Agreement has been severely criticized as an example of the trouble caused for posterity by secret diplomacy. It is easy to find fault with what was a wartime expedient , but at least it had the merits of aiming chiefly to preserve intact tile façade of the Triple Alliance, while tile proposal for condominium over Palestine showed more foresight than any similar plan advocated the war.

Lord Curzon, Foreign. Secretary in the Coalition Government of1918—22, described the Sykes—Picot Agreement as ‘‘A sort of fancy sketch to suit a situation that had not arisen and which it was thought extremely unlikely would ever arise.’’- Those who knew the language Curzon normally used could hardly doubt that the Foreign Secretary was hastily improvising an alibi for his Prime Minister. For Lloyd George’s purpose, which his Foreign Secretary’s statement was meant to obscure, was to put the blame on the Liberal Foreign Secretary, Grey, Who authorized the agreement, and to seek some means of avoiding condominium in Palestine. In other words. Ll.G., as a “twentieth century Good Samaritan championing the Zionist cause” .

Asquith, in is Memoirs and Reflections, summed up the position by saying  that Lloyd  George, “who did not care a damn for the Jews, or their past or their future, felt it would be an outrage to let the Holly Places pass into the possession or under the protectorate  of agnostic, atheistic France’’  Ll.G.,  thought he had several Jewish friends, had often been known to express anti-Semitic views and had no real interests in a National Home for Jewry.  Indeed the Prime Minister’s Jewish friends were mainly those who were anti-Zionist, like Sir Charles Henry and Mr. Lionel de Rothschild. Lord Beaverbrook records that Sir Charles Henry  reported that in an interview the Prime Minister  had given his assent to the anti—Zionist view,’’ that is , those opposed to the idea of a National Home for the  Jews.

It was Sir Herhert Samuel who, first of all, argued the case for Britain taking over Palestine as a protectorate. But Samuel was not a fanatical Zionist and he did not intend his idea to be developed in quite the manner that Balfour, a converted pro—Zionist, conceived in infamous Declaration of 1917. Condominium for Palestine might well have been the best temporary solution for that territory if Russia had still been a member of the Entente. In any event, there was a strong argument for setting up an interim Anglo—French condominium. But Lloyd George intent on preventing any risk of such a move, had urged Allenby to advance on Damascus and Aleppo, militarily a rash idea before the Hejaz railway forces had been put down.

So from the autumn of 1918, through the various stages of the Peace Conference, and later at Genoa, Lloyd  George’s Middle  and Near East policy developed piecemeal.  First, to thwart the French and keep them out of Palestine; second, to gain control of Middle East oil; third, to support Greek merchant adventurers; and fourth, to create new dominions in the Arab territories.

The Arabian adventure was complementary to the Greek adventure; indeed, Lloyd George believed that the latter will indirectly assist the furtherance of the former. Just as Zaharoff was the all—important figure in the Greek policy, so T. Lawrence, the leader of the Arab revolt against the Turks, was t lie pawn in his schemes for aggrandizement in Arabia. The relations between Ll. G. and Lawrence are of special interest, in that they serve as an example of t the insincerity and vanity of both men. Each possessed the devious propensities of a certain type of Welsh mind; each had in ins make—up an element of humbug.

Lloyd George saw the defects of Lawrence more quickly than the easily flattered Lawrence realized those of the Premier. What LI. G. appreciated was time possibility of exploiting the romantic legend which had been built up around Lawrence’s name, largely, of course, by Lawrence. He was anxious for the Government to gain some kudos from this legend and to protect this sell—appointed crusader as an instrument for policy in the Arab territories. So each man fawned on the other, LI.G. praising Lawrence’s ‘‘clear gifts of exposition ‘‘, while Lawrence was shrewd enough to flatter the Premier by telling him exactly what he thought he wanted to know.

Nobody could be a bigger liar than Lawrence when it suited his purpose. He knew that Lloyd George was a Francophobe, and he played on this by discrediting the French, and assured the Prime Minister that France was plotting to destroy British influence in the Middle East. This was a little too much even for  Lloyd George to swallow; he told Lawrence that he very much doubted if France would dare to do this, but encouraged him to back Faisal in his claim to Syria—’ ‘just to throw a spanner n the French works’’.

Lawrence vacillated between vague plans for imperialist expansion and equally obscures proposals for bettering the life of the Arabs. The Prime Minister was anxious to take advantage of any ideas that offered Britain scope for expansion. He seized on a phrase of Lawrence’s as a news will whip a sentence out of a message and make it a head line —‘‘Britain’s first brown dominions”. Here was an imaginative proposal, thought the Premier, to show the British public that t lie Coalition Government was really boosting British prestige in the Middle East. Here was the chance to add to the Empire, to build a British bloc in the vital oil areas and keep down French influence. By cunningly implying  that some of these areas would have dominion status he could throw a soap to those who talked about the self determination of native peoples.

No time was to be lost. First, the minor intelligence agent must be built tip into a national myth.  ‘‘Give Lawrence the maximum of publicity,’’ he  told Sutherland. Lawrence’s massacres of sleeping Turks by his gang of Bedouin killers must be represented as gallant epics of war. Lawrence needed little bidding to play the part. As a virulent Turkophobe he fitted in perfectly with Ll.G.’s plan for supporting the Greeks; as a pro—Arabist and anti-French agitator he was exactly the man the Prime Minister required.   Lloyd George gave enthusiastic support to Lowell Thomas’s lectures on Lawrence and the Arab revolt.

Statesmen do not take infinite pains over so pathetic a crank  as Lawrence unless there are good reasons to fear him. Winen Lawrence, always masochistically minded, secretly  enlisted  in the time ranks of the R AF under another name., he was protected by all manner of instructions from on high. His machinations against the French during Lloyd George’s regime did immense harm to Anglo-French relations, and for years he was able to exercise a degree of influence in high circles in Britain out of all proportions to his status, even threatening authority with impunity.   Somewhere a corpse was buried and Lawrence knew what it was: the full story of the anti-French intrigues and double dealings with Arabs.

With time utmost cynicism Lloyd George agreed to set up a commission of inquiry into the questions of Palestine, Iraq and Syria. The Commission was packed with the type oi person who could hardly fail to give the British Premier the answers tie wanted: it included two anti-French British missionaries and was accompanied by Allenby’s military secretary. The mission did not even visit Baghdad and Mosul it confined itself to finding excuses for not granting French mandate for Syria. Many of the findings of the commission was were irrelevant but the irrelevancies were intended to show up the French in the worst possible light. “French education” stated their report was “superficial” and ‘inferior in te character building to the Anglo-Saxon”.  French education led to knowledge of “that kind of French literature which is irreligious and immoral”.

Mrs. Grundy might well have written this report which reeked of any hypocrisy and puritanism. It is obvious that the Moslem witnesses were asked leading questions with the object of getting them to make replies unfavorable to the French. Thus one learns that when Moslem women receive an e education, “they tend to become uncontrollable ‘‘whether that meant sexually, or from the viewpoint of their lords and masters, was not made clear.

Lloyd George threw the blame for failure to deal promptly with the Syrian question on Milner, whom, he said, was ‘‘in a state of nervous lassitude ‘‘. When Milner went to Paris to discuss Syria he was mysteriously recalled to London “oN urgent colonial business “ before the talks started. Did LI. G. recall Milner on some flimsy pretext merely to keep him out of the way, knowing that Milner did not see eye to eye with him in his dealings with the French?

Milner may have had his faults; he  was not a bold executive, but he was a thoroughly capable administrator. As to the allegations of  “nervous lassitude “, he later dealt in a most competent fashion with a revolt against the British in Egypt.

it is illuminating to see what Milner himself wrote on March 8, 191 . “Although I am aware that I have almost every other Government authority, military or diplomatic, against me, I am totally opposed to the idea of trying to diddle the French out of’ Syria.’’ Lloyd George coolly quoted this damning comment in The Truth About the Peace Treaties, and brushed it airily aside. He merely argued that there was no intrigue against time French in Syria.

Many Tories were becoming acutely distressed at time growing estrangement between Britain and France. They noted that whereas Lloyd George had produced no coherent economic policy and had allowed a boom year in 1919 to turn into a slump and mass unemployment, in France, under the orthodox but brilliant financial leadership of M. Poincaré, stability was returning.

Lloyd George, who had become so impressed by Venizelos, failed to notice the outstanding leadership of Mustapha Kemal Pasha over the Turkish Nationalists. Had he sought Kemal Pasha as an ally, British influence not only in time Middle East but throughout the Moslem world might have been greater. The pro-Greek policy in no way helped to forge the bonds of Empire to which lie paid lip service.

Time British Premier was, in fact, ‘‘going it alone’’; alone with Zaharoff and Venizelos. Curzon had the gravest doubts about his chief’s policy and at times was actually aiming at coming to a settlement with the Turks.

Even Sir Henry Wilson, some little time before he was assassinated, warned his old ally of the war clays: “Mr. Lloyd George has put his money on the wrong horse. We shall never get peace in Palestine or Mesopotamia, or Egypt or India, until we make love to the Turks. It may be very immoral, or it may not. It is a fact. Can anyone tell me why Mr. Lloyd George backed the Greeks? I know it was not upon the advice of Curzon, or the British Ambassador in Constantinople, or Lord Reading.  It was at the Quai d’Orsay when Lloyd George gave Smyrna to the Greeks and I had to arrange for troops to go there. Why did Lloyd George back them? Was it to please Zaharoff, or was it because Venizelos told him that the Greeks were so prolific that they would rebuild the Near East in two Or three years?”

Meanwhile Zaharoff recklessly pursued his ideal of a Greek Empire. He backed the Anglo—Persian Oil Company, with which, in tile Middle East, lie worked in close conjunction, and disputed American claims to the market in this area. The road was wide open for a free-for-all scramble for the British capitalist enterprises.

The British Trade Corporation took over the National Bank of Turkey and set up the Levant Company to develop trade in the area. The Federal ion of British Industries, a body which in the thirties was to show marked favoritism to Hitler Germany, spread its tentacles far and wide, nominating its first trade commissioner to Athens. It is not surprising that after 1945 U.S. oil interests determined to get their own back and thwart the British in the Middle East.

The worst features of’ Britain’s failure to make peace with Turkey was that it exacerbated Moslem feelings throughout the Empire. In India it produced something that could scarcely have happened before—an alliance of Hindus and Moslems in a civil disobedience campaign.

“Almost the only support on the side of the victors that Turkey could muster was Indian,’’ wrote the late Aga Khan in his Memory.

“The greater part of Muslim interest in India in the fate of Turkey was natural and spontaneous and there was a considerable clement of sincere non—Muslim agitation, the object of which, apart from the natural revolt of any organized Asiatic body against the idea of European imperialism, was further to consolidate and strengthen Indian nationalism in its struggle against the British.’’

Gandhi, wily politician that he was beneath his mask of piety, immediately cap this feeling and made Lloyd George’s anti— Turkish policy an excuse for a campaign of agitation that swept across the whole of India. Edwin Montagu, then Secretary of State for India, saw the danger signals and made an emphatic protest against the plans for partitioning Turkey. It is interesting to note that Arthur Bahfour, the fastidious Gentile aristocrat, was devoted to Zionism and violently anti-Turk, while Edwin Montagu, a Jew, was warmly sympathetic to the Islamic cause. Of such incongruities is history made.

Indeed Montagu felt so strongly on this question that, without Cabinet authority, he published a telegram from the Viceroy, Lord Reading, recommending the evacuation of Constantinople, and, in effect, a pro-Turkish policy. Montagu was immediately sacked and censured by the Prime Minister for ignoring the doctrine of Cabinet responsibility.

“Cabinet responsibility is a joke,” said Montagu. “Having connived at its disappearance, the Prime Minister now brings it out at a convenient moment and makes me its victim.”

The Aga Khan went as member of an Indian delegation to see Lloyd George. “But we realized our mission was doomed to failure,” he wrote, “for meanwhile the Turkish Treaty was being prepared, with strangely little regard for the realities which, within a few years, were to shape the Near East anew. The unfortunate Sultan was under rigorous supervision, a solitary and helpless prisoner in Constantinople. Turkish, Arab and Greek deputations were hurrying backwards and forwards between the Mediterranean and London. Sometimes their arguments were listened to; often they were not. The Treaty of Sèvres was to be an imposed not a negotiated treaty.”

By this time Lloyd George was one hundred per cent committed to Zaharoff’s reckless plans. At one moment he promised Constantinople to the Greeks; then he retracted. Rut Zaharoff would not let him re treat too flit; he had bargained for Britain and won favors for British capitalists and he was determined to demand something in return from Britain. He told Lloyd George: “I want a free hand to direct matters in the Middle East. The crisis is near. I want you to support every Greek move against the Turks from now on.”

Then one day Lloyd George came to see him. “They tell me it is your birthday today,” said LI. G. casually. “I should like to give you a present that will make you really happy. So go along and tell your friend Venizelos that I make you a present of Asia Minor.”

It was probably one of the happiest days of Zaharoff life, but it was a birthday present that was to cost Greece a hundred thousand lives and Zaharoff himself a loss of so millions of pounds.

Even at this juncture Zaharoff was not entirely satisfied. He reminded Ll G. that despite the fact that Greece had rejected the offer of Cyprus by Britain early in World War I, Greek aspirations still extended to this island. Zaharoff had pressed Lloyd George for some few years on this subject, but so far all he had obtained from him was a guarded statement by the British Premier in a letter to the Archbishop of Cyprus in November, 1919, that “the wishes of the inhabitants of Cyprus for union with Greece will be taken into a most careful and sympathetic consideration by the Government when they consider its future” without consulting his colleagues, LI. G. agreed to cede Cyprus ‘‘as soon as the Turkish business was settled and at the same time that Italy ceded Rhodes to Greece ‘‘.

This fatal promise marked the beginning of the long and bitter Enosis campaign for the cession of Cyprus and which, on the basis of Lloyd George’s promise, was vigorously renewed in 1947 when Greece and Italy made peace with the cession of Rhodes as part of the bargain. The Prime Minister’s colleagues vigorously disagreed with the assurance he had made of his own accord, and I lie next Government took advantage of Turkey’s cession of all rights to the island by making it a Crown colony.

Time gift oh’ Asia Minor to Greece made Italy the potential enemy of Britain for the first time in modern history. In May, 1919, the Greeks occupied Smyrna with the tacit approval of the ‘‘Big Four ‘‘. For once Lloyd George bulldozed through French, American and Italian opposition, ruthlessly forcing his own decisions without a thought for the diplomatic consequences, and, against the advice of’ British and French military experts, drew imp a treaty which put Smyrna and Eastern Thrace under Greek control and internationalized Constantinople and the Straits.

You will live to regret this crazy blunders,’’ Poincare warned LI. G. when you incorporated this plan the Treaty of’ Sevres you made certain that you had built something as fragile as Sevres porcelain. Within a few years it will be smashed to little pieces.’’

(The text above is reflected from Donald McCormick’s book The Mask Of Merlin: A critical Study of David Lloyd Geroge. Since the book is copyrighted the text omits many parts of the text from the book and the book can be reached here)

In 1921 France realized what Lloyd George ignored the intrinsically Western character of Turkish civilization. As results showed, the Europeanization of Turkey by Kemal was really the culmination of a long-cherished national aspiration. So the French decided to answer British chicanery with an even more ruthless chicanery of their own. It was understandable. Double-crossed for the past three years, thwarted in almost every move she made, threatened with the prospect of a new war in the Middle and Near East, France had little alter native but to fight Lloyd George in the only manner which he seemed to understand.

France had powerful interests, commercial and financial, in Turkey, which she was determined not to lose. Turkey, argued France, must stay strong and stable, so secretly she came to an agreement which led to her selling arms to the Turks and confirming that Constantinople should be left in Turkish hands. This French secret intervention on the Turkish side coincided with the handing over to Greece of most of Turkey-in-Europe except Constantinople and Western Asia Minor. But the Treaty of Sevres was never ratified.

Poincare’ s prophecy came true.  Kemal Ataturk proved himself a statesman as well as a general of no ordinary caliber. He had set up a provisional capital at Angora (now Ankara) and reformed and re-equipped the Turkish army, while a secret understanding with Russia enabled him confidently to face the future without a threat from that direction.

Venizelos s hour of triumph was brief. He was defeated in his country s General Election in November, 1920. Back into power came King Constantine who continued the campaign in Anatolia with Lloyd George s secret encouragement. When the Greeks were defeated at the Battle of Sakbaria, the ultimate issue was not in doubt. On August 26, 1922, Mustapha Kemal attacked and destroyed their columns.  The Greek army dissolved into rebellious mobs with the Turkish cavalry hard at their heels. By September 9, Mustapha Kemal occupied Smyrna and drove the Greeks across the Straits into Europe.

The town was enveloped in flames. There have been many accounts of these actions, many of which have portrayed the raping, looting Turks pursuing the Greeks in a frenzy of blood lust.

It is therefore worth noting that a close associate of Lloyd George, Viscount St, Davids, delivered a striking indictment of Greek conduct at this time. Speaking at the half-yearly meeting of the Ottoman Railway Company, which ran from Smyrna to Aidin, he said that “the Greeks burned every Turkish village they saw. They robbed individual Turks, and when these resisted they killed them, and they did all this nowhere near the front and without military necessity. They did it out of sheer malice. Our reports are that it was done systematically by regular troops under orders”.

“The Greeks took from Smyrna a number of leading Turks and deported them to Athens. I do not know whether it was done to squeeze money out of them, or to hold them as hostages. King Constantine s servants are very bad at fighting, but they are first class at robbery, arson and murder.”

(The text above is reflected from Donald McCormick’s book The Mask Of Merlin: A critical Study of David Lloyd Geroge. Since the book is copyrighted the text omits many parts of the text from the book and the book can be reached here)

From the sun-baked rocks of Anatolia Mustapha Kemal conjured an improvised but efficient fighting machine and drove the Greek  troops, financed by Zaharoff and armed by Britain, out of Smyrna with weapons provided by France. The policy of “keeping the French down” had completely boomeranged. It meant the end of Greek imperialist ambitions and the renaissance of Turkey. It struck a blow at Britain s prestige in the Middle East from which she has never since recovered.

Lloyd George s reaction was one of panic. He imagined that Kemal would chase the Greeks into Europe and set the Balkans ablaze with a curtain of fire. Now he turned to the hand he had bitten and begged aid from France. To Italy and all the British dominions he went, almost abjectedly, pleading for aid against Turkey. The Allied Com- mander-in-Chief, Sir Charles Harington, was ordered to defend the neutral zones.

The replies from France and Italy were swift: each nation ordered its forces to be withdrawn. The British dominions viewed the situation with dismay and showed no desire to be drawn into “Lloyd George s war”. The Canadian Premier objected publicly, the Australian privately; only New Zealand and Newfoundland offered help.

It has been argued that, in standing firm, Lloyd George saved the situation from developing into a major Balkan war. His action in making an isolated stand is said to have stayed the advance of Kemal. Had Kemal desired to press on, nothing could have stopped him. In fact there is no evidence that he had any intention of pushing into the Balkans. When an armistice was concluded at Madania (Mudanya) in October, 1922, it was largely due to the common sense and statesmanship of the soldier on the spot, Sir Charles Harington, and Kemal’s calculating moderation. Yet these last acts of the Coalition Government have been hailed as a moral victory for Lloyd George. Dr. Thomas Jones wrote; “Lloyd George s promptitude prevented war, his desire to deliver Asia Minor from the Turkish yoke was defeated, but the Arab world Iraq, Arabia, Palestine and Syria was set free. Turkey and Britain were reconciled and their friendship endured throughout the second world war.

Friendship with Turkey, in fact, only developed later and then mainly through the close personal relationship which the British Ambassador, Sir George Clarke, established with Kemal. Even so, Turkey remained neutral in World War II. As for the setting free of the Arab world, this really meant a veneer of freedom beneath which all these territories were exploited by capitalism in the place of imperialism.


(The text above is reflected from Donald McCormick’s book The Mask Of Merlin: A critical Study of David Lloyd Geroge. Since the book is copyrighted the text omits many parts of the text from the book and the book can be reached here)


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