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Speech in Senate Chamber: Armistice of Mudanya— Inquiry—Debate Adjourned

Armistice of Mudanya

Inquiry—Debate Adjourned

Hon. Anne C. Cools rose pursuant to notice of October 28, 2014:

That she will call the attention of the Senate to November 11, known to all as Remembrance Day, of this, the centennial year of the July 28 start of hostilities in the 1914-1918 Great War, which day is given to the national and collective mourning of Canadians, on which we remember and honour the many who served and who fell in the service of God, King and Country, and, whose incalculable sacrifice of their lives, we honour in our simultaneous yet individual, personal acts of prayer and remembrance, wherein we pause and bow our heads together in sacred unity, at the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month, for the many who gave themselves, and:

To two exceptional soldiers and human beings, who fought on opposite sides of the Great War, both of whom, were distinguished generals and accomplished military men, being General Charles Harington, the British Commander in Chief of the Allied occupation army in Constantinople, and the Turkish General, Mustafa Kemal, the Commander of the Turkish peoples' brave national resistance to the Sèvres Treaty's detachment and partition of the Turkish peoples' lands, to give these lands to some of the Allies who so desired them, and, to these two Commanders' respective troops, assembled, battle ready, and awaiting orders for the start of hostilities in October 1922, at Chanak in the Dardenelles, and, to fate, which joined these two commanders there, and, to their determination to avoid unnecessary bloodshed, and, to their remarkable contribution to British, Turkish and world peace, and, to their will to not spend their soldiers' lives in folly, and, to reach the honourable, the just and the true, by their negotiated armistice, agreed and signed on, October 11, 1922 as the Armistice of Mudanya, and, to Canadian-born, Andrew Bonar Law who became Prime Minister of Britain on October 23, 1922, and who served for seven months, and who passed away on October 30, 1923, and, to his great commitment to the British-Turkish peace in what the British, the Dominions and Canadians called the Chanak Crisis or the Chanak Affair.

She said: Honourable senators, one hundred years ago, the Great War began. Today, I uphold two great soldiers who served in and survived it. Both generals and commanders, they were gifted in the art of war. They shared the duty of service and care of their soldiers' lives. One was English, the other Turkish. In 1922, battle drawn, and on opposite sides, fate joined them at Chanak, now Çanakkale, a Dardenelles seaport. This Chanak Affair was the result of the Allied victors' bad decisions at their 1919 Paris Peace Conference, mainly their unjust stillborn Treaty of Sèvres, with the defeated Ottoman Sultan. These two men's faithfulness is legend, as was their moral and mental stamina. Both were determined to avoid unneeded bloodshed and to reach a just peace.

Honourable senators, I speak of British General Charles Harington, the Commander-in-Chief of the Allied occupation army in Constantinople, and the Turkish General Mustafa Kemal, the leader of the Turkish peoples' national resistance to the Sèvres Treaty's efforts to partition the Turkish peoples' region of the defeated Ottoman Empire, to subject them to British, Italian, French and Greek rule, called mandates. These men never met, but shared their mutual respect. They gave much to humanity and peace in the Near East. Today I remember them. Canadian Margaret MacMillan, in her book Paris 1919, wrote, at page 448:

. . . the last stage of peacemaking in Turkey started with war.

About the Paris Peace Conference decisions, she said:

Allied policies were confused, inept and risky — and created the ideal conditions for Turkish nationalism to flourish.

Honourable senators, Mustafa Kemal and his National Assembly in Ankara were the de facto government of a new Turkey that had shed its Ottoman past.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Colleagues, I know the hour is late, but I would ask you to direct your attention to Senator Cools.

Senator Cools: Allied actions to take Smyrna, Constantinople, and the straits from the Turkish peoples drove them to resist the loss of their lands and homes. Inspired by President Woodrow Wilson's self-determination of nations, they, led by Mustafa Kemal, fought to defend their lands as Allied British, Italian, French and Greek forces landed to occupy them as spoils. Prime Minister Lloyd George, deaf to their self-determination, was firm in his deadly march to war, in his Chanak Affair. Politics' mighty hand stopped him. It forced his resignation and made way for peace, negotiated by Lord Curzon, whom he so scorned.

Honourable senators, in Chanak, British politics gripped Canada. On September 18, 1922, Lloyd George and Winston Churchill sent a telegram to Prime Minister Mackenzie King seeking Dominion troops to fight their Chanak war, to drive "the Turk," "one and all, bag and baggage," out of Europe. In this, Lloyd George was opposed by his cabinet, his foreign secretary, the Commons, his military leaders, King George, the press, and the British people, still mourning their sons lost to the Great War. They saw Chanak as Lloyd George's new war. In his 1969 book The Chanak Affair, former British M.P. David Walder wrote, at page 83:

The British generals, like the Conservatives in government and in parliament, were all . . . pro-Turk, partly because they respected them as soldiers, . . .

Honourable senators, when Prime Minister Robert Borden had signed the failed Sèvres Treaty. Many knew its defects. Walder wrote, at page 286:

By the London Conference the Allies had admitted that the Treaty of Sèvres needed revision, and that Kemal's government was entitled to have a say in that process. . . . That the new Turkish government should have Constantinople had been conceded.

Canada's action to send no troops to Chanak ended Lloyd George's Coalition-Government. Canada's politics helped resolve British political conflict and brought British peace with the new Turkey. Chanak peace loomed large in the Conservative Caucus decision at the Carlton Club on October 19, 1922. There Conservative members voted to end their coalition with Liberals, and Lloyd George's tenure in office. The road from his Dominions' cable to this vote was short, but certain for British-Turkish peace.

Honourable senators, a great Canadian in these times, Max Aitken, Lord Beaverbrook, in his book The Decline and Fall of Lloyd George cites Frances Stevenson, Lloyd George's secretary, and later wife, on this doomed cable, at page 160:

One morning . . . [September 15] my door opened and L.G. [Lloyd George] and Churchill walked in from the Cabinet room. L.G. asked me to take down from Churchill the text of what I realised was to be a statement asking the Dominion Governments for their support in the event of a war with Turkey. I was horrified at the unwisdom of the message, conveying as it did the prospect of renewed warfare on a grand scale. L.G. and Churchill took the draft back into the Cabinet room, . . . Shall I send L.G. in a note warning him against such an action? I thought. But then again, I thought, he will never agree to such a telegram being sent. The next thing I knew was that the telegram had gone. It was one of the factors which helped to bring the Coalition Government to an end, and within a fortnight it had fallen.

Honourable senators, Beaverbrook wrote, at page 206:

The closing incident of the drama of the great war leader was a display of strength which was an extraordinary example of weakness. War on Turkey with the possibility of war with France too. . . . Many of his followers deserted him at this hour because they believed his real object and purpose was that of personal advantage.

On the new Prime Minister, Canadian Andrew Bonar Law, Beaverbrook said, at page 205:

"The King sent for Bonar Law." It was the second time in eight years. On the first occasion he stood down in favour of Lloyd George. On the second occasion he succeeded that statesman.

Days later, in the November 15 general election, Canadian Bonar Law and his Conservatives won a clear majority, with a mandate for peace with Mustafa Kemal's new Turkey.

Mackenzie King's Chanak stand was well known. Walder notes Lloyd George's September 30 cabinet minutes, at page 295:

The Cabinet expressed concern on, . . . the following: . . .

Generally, as to the apparent progressive deterioration of our political position and prestige, particularly from the point of view of the Dominions, . . . .

Canada's, the Dominions' and India's concerns about Lloyd George's Chanak war were clear.

Honourable senators, Mustafa Kemal's defeat of the Sèvres Treaty is legend. His forces recaptured Turkish lands given by Lloyd George to some Allies, such as Smyrna, given to the Greeks. MacMillan writes on the Allies' changing leaders, the election defeats of Greece's Venizelos and Italy's Orlando, and the events that destroyed what was left — the little that was left — of the defective Allied Turkish policy. Her chapter 29 is titled "Ataturk and the Breaking of Sèvres." About the crumbling Allies' agreements, she writes, at page 450:

In October 1921, France signed a treaty with Ataturk's government which provided for the withdrawal of all French forces from Cilicia in the south. France got economic concessions, while Ataturk gained something much more important —— recognition by a leading power.

By the end of World War I, France and Britain were ready to go to war with each other like in the olden days.

Honourable senators, France, the Ottomans' financiers, hoping to recover their debts, was the first country to make peace with Kemal and was now ready to fight the British. French Premier Poincare withdrew his troops, as did the Italians. British forces alone faced Kemal's troops at Chanak. Bonar Law's Foreign Secretary, Lord Curzon, drafted the Treaty of Lausanne with Ataturk's trusted General Ismet Inonu. This set the new Republic of Turkey's borders. MacMillan notes at page 453:

The Treaty of Lausanne was unlike Versailles, . . . and Sèvres, those products of the Paris Peace Conference. . . . Very little remained of the Sèvres terms. . . . Turkey's borders now included virtually all the Turkish-speaking territories, . . . The straits remained Turkish, but with an international agreement on their use. The old humiliating capitulations were swept away.

Honourable senators, now to General Harington's great battle prowess, and Mustafa Kemal, the commander with the eye for the key tactical position, who would seize the high ground and dominate the field, as at Gallipoli. These two commanders' wish not to waste soldiers' lives is legend. The first detachment of Turkish troops had advanced to the British line on September 23, 1922. The Turks did not open fire, but would not withdraw. At Chanak, both sides' troops nervously waited. Walder writes, at page 245:

Thus for the first time at Chanak British and Turks had been on the knife edge of war. [. . .] The situation for Harington was as difficult as can be imagined. He himself was as determined as a man could be in his position that a war should not break out. Nevertheless as a soldier he had a duty to obey orders from London, and also a duty to his own men, whom he could not allow to be overrun by the Turks. At the back of his mind he was convinced that Mustapha Kemal did not want war with Britain, but obviously, from remarks made later in his own autobiography, he must have had some reservations about the attitude of the British government.

Walder said, at page 221:

Harington intended, however, that the Turks should not be provoked, either by the soldiers under his command or by dangerous or impossible situations manufactured by politicians in Downing Street. . . . The danger lay in hasty actions, overbearing attitudes and inadequate means. The safe course, in Harington's view, was to attempt nothing beyond one's capabilities, but at the same time to give no encouragement to those Turks, less level-headed than Kemal, who might think that the Allies could be stampeded into the sea in the wake of the Greeks.

Walder wrote about Allied occupied Constantinople, at page 250:

On the ground there the Turks outnumbered the British to an almost ludicrous extent. In addition in Constantinople, as Harington telegraphed, . . . 'we are living on a sort of volcano'. . . . Harington did not share Beatty's confidence that Constantinople could be defended entirely by the Navy.

And at page 282:

The soldiers at Chanak had kept their heads, but the statesmen in Downing Street had pulled the trigger.

Honourable senators, Walder cites the September 29 cabinet cable ordering Harington to open fire, at page 281:

It has therefore been decided by the Cabinet that the Officer Commanding the Turkish forces around Chanak is immediately to be notified that, if his forces are not withdrawn by an hour to be settled by you, at which our combined forces will be in place, all the forces at our disposal—naval, military, and aerial—will open fire.

Honourable senators, cabinet met on September 30, awaiting Harington's response. Walder cites and comments on Harington's telegram back to Lloyd George at page 296:

`I share,' said the General, `the Cabinet's desire to end procrastinations of Kemal and I note the decision of Cabinet but I would earnestly beg that the matter be left to my judgment for the moment. There is no question of disaster or danger to British forces until Kemalists bring up serious force of guns and infantry.' Harington then went on to stress that he could defend his positions at Chanak. Therefore, he continued, 'To me it seems very inadvisable just at moment when within reach of distance of meeting between Allied Generals and Kemal which Hamid says will be in two or three days and Ankara government are penning their reply to Allied note that I should launch avalanche of fire which will put a match to mine here and everywhere else and from which there will be no drawing back. I have incessantly been working for peace which I thought was the wish of His Majesty's Government. To suppose my not having fired so far at Chanak has been interpreted as sign of weakness is quite wrong because I have been very careful to warn Hamid that I have the full powers of England behind me and that I shall not hesitate to use it if time comes. `. . . we are so far not at war with Kemal, . . . .' There had been no further Turkish advances at Chanak; in fact some troops seemed to have been drawn back. `I look,' said Harington, `upon situation as improving daily. . . . it is evident Kemalists have had orders not to attack. It was never dangerous. Will you at once confirm or otherwise whether my judgment is overruled. If Kemal's reply to my last request is unsatisfactory I am all in favour of issuing. He does not intend to attack Chanak . . . in my opinion.

An angry Lloyd George thought that Harington had disobeyed him, so he met with his Chiefs of Staff, Beatty, Cavan and Trenchard. They looked at the telegram and responded, "General Harington's telegram entirely alters situation."

Lloyd George tried to hurt Harington. Walder said, at page 298:

Curzon was later to confide to Harington that . . . there had been a suggestion of passing a vote of censure on his conduct, a proposal he (Curzon) had been opposed. If it had happened the Lloyd George government would have found itself in a very curious position indeed, for on October 1st General Harington was informed that Mustapha Kemal would meet him at Mudania in conference with the other Allied generals.

Armistice was within reach.

Kemal, Harington and Lord Curzon never ceased to work for a just peace. They always understood — and it's very important that we take this point — they always knew that the sole power of British presence at Chanak was conquest, not morally or politically wise, and all were cautious about British aggression.

Honourable senators, on October 3, General Harington with two Allied generals, leaving for armistice talks with Kemal's General Ismet Inonu, sent a message to his anxious troops. Walder notes his words, at page 299:

. . . He wishes all ranks to know how much the world has appreciated their self restraint under most trying circumstances.

The Hon. the Speaker: Order, please.

Senator Cools: May I have another few minutes?

The Hon. the Speaker: Agreed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Senator Cools: That was the British Commander-in-Chief Harington sending this to men who were at the battle lines drawn, for weeks.

On October 11, these generals signed the Armistice of Mudanya. They knew that no agreement meant war. Walder wrote at page 318:

So ended Veniselos' dream of a Greek empire and Lloyd George's postwar foreign policy.

This armistice, honourable senators, was formed in the brave hearts of two great commanders — Charles Harington and Mustafa Kemal.

Honourable senators, the British press, mostly against this war, especially the Daily Mail and the Daily Express, praised Commander Harington. The London Opinion printed a cartoon reflecting British thought. Headed "The Soldier Peacemaker Holds back the Dogs of War," it depicted a tall Harington pulling back from a precipice, two large surging hounds, with the heads of Lloyd George and Winston Churchill. Walder quotes Lloyd George's last public statement, at page 360, that:

Great men sometimes lose the reins and lose their heads.

Honourable senators, after the Carlton Club vote, the peaceful Canadian, Bonar Law, sent Lord Curzon to meet the same Turkish General Ismet Inonu about their Treaty of Lausanne, which was signed a year later. About their Lausanne masterpiece, MacMillan said, at page 454:

. . . the treaty is still seen as modern Turkey's greatest diplomatic victory. In the autumn of 1923, the last foreign troops left Constantinople.

MacMillan ends her chapter on Ataturk and the Sèvres Treaty, with a tribute, at page 455:

In 1993, on the seventieth anniversary of the Treaty of Lausanne, Ismet's son and Curzon's grandson laid a wreath together on Ataturk's grave.

Commanders Charles Harington and Mustafa Kemal served with honour and distinction. Forged in war, they brought peace and fraternity. We will remember them.

I thank honourable senators very much. Senator McCoy has asked me to take the adjournment in her name.

(On motion of Senator Cools, for Senator McCoy, debate adjourned.)

The remainder of this day's Senate Debates are available here.