A History of the Great War, 1914-1918

By C. R. M. F. Cruttwell | Go to book overview

XIII THE DARDANELLES

I

TURKEY on the map resembled1 in a general way a great Asiatic lying prone, with his head in Europe, his body in Asia Minor, his right leg in Mesopotamia, and his left in the Sinai Peninsula. Anatolia is indeed the true heart of this unwieldy giant, being practically impregnable and supplying his life-blood in the shape of its sturdy peasants, unsurpassed for a dumb enduring courage. Both the legs required to be secured lest they should give dangerous kicks. The Turk in the Persian Gulf might interfere with the pipe-line of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, on which the oil-driven ships of the Navy depended for their supply. But a kick from the left leg would be even more dangerous; nay, possibly fatal. The Suez Canal was aptly called by our enemies the 'Jugular vein of the British Empire' through which flowed all the vital traffic between East and West. Even a temporary interruption of this stream would be very serious. Further, it was quite impossible to predict the repercussions upon our Eastern Empire of the presence of the Turk in Egypt.

In the far north-east of Asia Minor the frontiers of the Turkish and Russian Empires met in a tender spot among the great mountains of the Caucasus. Here the Russian was likely to prove the more dangerous invader, for in the line of his advance was placed the province of Armenia, whose Christian inhabitants had been maltreated, tormented, and massacred for generations by their Moslem rulers. In 1915 the most savage and wholesale of all these butcheries was perpetrated, in which it is reckoned that more than a million Armenians perished.

Finally, the head, Constantinople, though subtly protected by nature against a direct blow, was joined to the body by the frailest of connexions, a bridge across the water.

____________________
1
For the map of Turkey see p. 350.

-204-

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