G. F. Abbott. Greece and the Allies 1914-1922

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GREECE AND THE ALLIES

1914-1922

BY

G. F. ABBOTT

BY THE SAME AUTHOR

SONGS OF MODERN GREECE

MACEDONIAN FOLKLORE

THE TALE OF A TOUR IN MACEDONIA

GREECE IN EVOLUTION (ED.)

TURKEY IN TRANSITION

TURKEY, GREECE, AND THE GREAT POWERS

UNDER THE TURK IN CONSTANTINOPLE

WITH A PREFACE BY

ADMIRAL MARK KERR, C.B., M.V.O.

LATE COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF OF THE ROYAL HELLENIC NAVY

AND HEAD OF THE BRITISH NAVAL MISSION TO GREECE

METHUEN &CO. LTD.

36 ESSEX STREET W.C.

LONDON

First published in 1922

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PREFACE

The late convulsions in Greece and Turkey, and the consequent revival of all the mis-statements which, during the War, flowed from ignorance or malice, render the publication of this book particularly opportune.

Mr. Abbott deals with his subject in all its aspects, and presents for the first time to the British public a complete and coherent view of the complicated circumstances that made Greece, during the War, the battle-ground of rival interests and intrigues, from which have grown the present troubles.

In this book we get a clear account of the little-understood relations between the Greek and the Serb; of the attitude of Greece towards the Central Powers and the Entente; of the dealings between Greece and the Entente and the complications that ensued therefrom. Mr. Abbott traces the evil to its source-the hidden pull of British versus French interests in the Eastern Mediterranean, and the open antagonism between M. Venizelos and King Constantine.

All these subjects are of acute interest, and not the least interesting is the last.

The persecution of King Constantine by the Press of the Allied countries, with some few good exceptions, has been one of the most tragic affairs since the Dreyfus case. Its effect on the state of Europe during and since the War is remarkable. If King Constantine's advice had been followed, and the Greek plan for the taking of the Dardanelles had been carried out, the war would probably have been shortened by a very considerable period, Bulgaria and Rumania could have been kept out of the War, and probably the Russian Revolution and collapse would not have taken place; for, instead of having Turkey to assist Bulgaria, the Allied forces would have been between and separating these two countries. {vi}

In this case King Constantine would not have been exiled from his country, and consequently he would not have permitted the Greek Army to be sent to Asia Minor, which he always stated would ruin Greece, as the country was not rich enough or strong enough to maintain an overseas colony next to an hereditary enemy like the Turk.

It is illuminating to remember that the Greek King's policy was fully endorsed by the only competent authorities who had a full knowledge of the subject, which was a purely military one. These were the late Field-Marshal Lord Kitchener of Khartoum, the British Admiral at the head of the Naval Mission in Greece, and Colonel Sir Thomas Cuninghame, British Military Attaché in Athens; but the advice tendered by these three officers was disregarded in favour of that given by the civilians, M. Venizelos and the Allied Ministers.

Mr. Abbott's book will do much to enlighten a misled public as to the history of Greece during the last nine years, and many documents which have not hitherto been before the public are quoted by him from the official originals, to prove the case.

For the sake of truth and justice, which used to flourish in Great Britain, I hope that this book will be read by everyone who has the welfare of the British Empire at heart.

MARK KERR

4 October, 1922

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AUTHOR'S PREFACE

As this work goes to press, the British Empire finds itself forced to vindicate its position in the East: a position purchased at the cost of much blood and treasure during the war, to be jeopardized after the conclusion of peace by the defeat of Greece and the defection of France.

In the following pages the reader will find the sequence of events which have inevitably led up to this crisis: an account of transactions hitherto obscured and distorted by every species of misrepresentation and every known artifice for manipulating public opinion.

The volume is not a hasty essay produced to exploit an ephemeral situation. It embodies the fruit of investigations laboriously carried on through six years. A slight account of the earlier events appeared as far back as the winter of 1916 in a book entitled, Turkey, Greece, and the Great Powers: that was my first effort to place the subject in its true perspective. The results were interesting. I was honoured by the reproaches of several private and by the reprobation of several public critics; some correspondents favoured me with their anonymous scurrility, and some bigots relieved me of their acquaintance. On the other hand, there were people who, in the midst of a maelstrom of passion, retained their respect for facts.

I pursued the subject further in a weekly journal. Two of my contributions saw the light; the third was suppressed by the Authorities. Its suppression furnished material for a debate in Parliament: "This is a cleverly written article," said Mr. John Dillon, "and I cannot find in it a single word which justifies suppression. All that one can find in it is that it states certain facts which the Government do not like to be known, not that they injure the military situation in the least, but that they show that the Government, in the opinion of the writer, made certain very bad blunders." The Home Secretary's answer was {viii} typical of departmental dialectics: "It is inconceivable to me," he declared, "that the Government would venture to say to the Press, or indicate to it in any way, 'This is our view. Publish it. If you do not, you will suffer.'" What the Government did, in effect, say to the Editor of the National Weekly was: "This is not our view. Publish it not. If you do, you will suffer."

With an innocence perhaps pardonable in one who was too intent on the evolution of the world drama to follow the daily development of war-time prohibitions, I next essayed to present to the public through the medium of a book the truth which had been banned from the columns of a magazine. The manuscript of that work, much fingered by the printer, now lies before me, and together with it a letter from the publisher stating that the Authorities had forbidden its publication on pain of proceedings "under 27 (b) of the Defence of the Realm Regulations."

And so it came about that not until now has it been possible for the voice of facts to refute the fables dictated by interest and accepted by credulity. The delay had its advantages: it gave the story, through the natural progress of events, a completeness which otherwise it would have lacked, and enabled me to test its accuracy on every point by a fresh visit to Greece and by reference to sources previously inaccessible, such as the Greek State Papers and the self-revealing publications of persons directly concerned in the transactions here related.

I venture to hope that so thorough an inquiry will convey some new information respecting these transactions even to those who are best acquainted with their general course. If they find nothing attractive in the style of the book, they may find perhaps something useful, something that will deserve their serious reflection, in the matter of it. For let it not be said that a story starting in 1914 is ancient history. Unless one studies the record of Allied action in Greece from the very beginning, he cannot approach with any clear understanding the present crisis-a struggle between Greeks and Turks on the surface, but at bottom a conflict between French and British policies affecting the vital interests of the British Empire.

G. F. A.

5 October, 1922

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Besides information acquired at first hand, my material is mainly drawn from the following sources:

Greek State Papers now utilized for the first time.

White Book, published by the Government of M. Venizelos under the title, "Diplomatika Engrapha, 1913-1917," 2nd edition, Athens, 1920.

Orations, delivered in the Greek Chamber in August, 1917, by M. Venizelos, his followers, MM. Repoulis, Politis, and Kafandaris, and his opponents, MM. Stratos and Rallis. The Greek text ("Agoreuseis, etc.," Athens, 1917) and the English translation ("A Report of Speeches, etc.," London, 1918), give them all, though the speech of M. Stratos only in summary. The French translation ("Discours, etc., Traduction de M. Léon Maccas, autorisée par le Gouvernement Grec," Paris, 1917) curiously omits both the Opposition speeches.

Skouloudis's Apantesis, 1917; Apologia, 1919; Semeioseis, 1921. The first of these publications is the ex-Premier's Reply to statements made in the Greek Chamber by M. Venizelos and others in August, 1917; the second is his Defence; the third is a collection of Notes concerning transactions in which he took part. All three are of the highest value for the eventful period of the Skouloudis Administration from November, 1915, to June, 1916.

Journal Officiel, 24-30 October, 1919, containing a full report of the Secret Committee of the French Chamber which sat from 16 June to 22 June, 1916.

Next in importance, though not inferior in historic interest, come some personal narratives, of which I have also availed myself, by leading French actors in the drama:

Du Fournet: "Souvenirs de Guerre d'un Amiral, 1914-1916." By Vice-Admiral Dartige du Fournet, Paris, 1920.

Sarrail: "Mon Commandement en Orient, 1916-1918." By General Sarrail, Paris, 1920.

Regnault: "La Conquête d'Athènes, Juin-Juillet, 1917." By General Regnault, Paris, 1920.

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Deville: "L'Entente, la Grèce et la Bulgarie. Notes d'histoire et souvenirs." By Gabriel Deville, Paris, 1919. The author was French Minister at Athens till August, 1915, and the portions of his work which deal with his own experiences are worth consulting.

Jonnart: "M. Jonnart en Grèce et l'abdication de Constantin." By Raymond Recouly, Paris, 1918. Though not written by the High Commissioner himself, this account may be regarded as a semi-official record of his mission.

The only English publications of equal value, though of much more limited bearing upon the subject of this work, which have appeared so far are:

The Dardanelles Commission Reports (Cd. 8490; Cd. 8502; Cmd. 371), and the Life of Lord Kitchener, by Sir George Arthur, Vol. III, London, 1920.

Some trustworthy contributions to the study of these events have also been made by several unofficial narratives, to which the reader is referred for details on particular episodes. The absence of reference to certain other narratives is deliberate.

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GREECE AND THE ALLIES

1914-1922

INTRODUCTION

Ingenious scholars, surveying life from afar, are apt to interpret historical events as the outcome of impersonal forces which shape the course of nations unknown to themselves. This is an impressive theory, but it will not bear close scrutiny. Human nature everywhere responds to the influence of personality. In Greece this response is more marked than anywhere else. No people in the world has been so completely dominated by personal figures and suffered so grievously from their feuds, ever since the day when strife first parted Atreides, king of men, and god-like Achilles.

The outbreak of the European War found Greece under the sway of King Constantine and his Premier Eleutherios Venizelos; and her history during that troubled era inevitably centres round these two personalities.

By the triumphant conduct of the campaigns of 1912 and 1913, King Constantine had more than effaced the memory of his defeat in 1897. His victories ministered to the national lust for power and formed an earnest of the glory that was yet to come to Greece. Henceforth a halo of military romance-a thing especially dear to the hearts of men-shone about the head of Constantine; and his grateful country bestowed upon him the title of {2} Stratelates. In town mansions and village huts men's mouths were filled with his praise: one dwelt on his dauntless courage, another on his strategic genius, a third on his sympathetic recognition of the claims of the common soldier, whose hardships he shared, and for whose life he evinced a far greater solicitude than for his own.

But it was not only as a leader of armies that King Constantine appealed to the hearts of his countrymen. They loved to explain to strangers the reason of the name Koumbaros or "Gossip," by which they commonly called him. It was not so much, they would say, that he had stood godfather to the children born to his soldiers during the campaigns, but rather that his relations with the rank and file of the people at large were marked by the intimate interest of a personal companion.

In peace, as in war, he seemed a prince born to lead a democratic people. With his tall, virile figure, and a handsome face in which strength and dignity were happily blended with simplicity, he had a manner of address which was very engaging: his words, few, simple, soldier-like, produced a wonderful effect; they were the words of one who meant and felt what he said: they went straight to the hearer's heart because they came straight from the speaker's.

Qualities of a very different sort had enabled M. Venizelos to impose himself upon the mind of the Greek nation, and to make his name current in the Chancelleries of the world.

Having begun life as an obscure lawyer in Crete, he had risen through a series of political convulsions to high notability in his native island; and in 1909 a similar convulsion in Greece-brought about not without his collaboration-opened to him a wider sphere of activity. The moment was singularly opportune.

The discontent of the Greek people at the chronic mismanagement of their affairs had been quickened by the Turkish Revolution into something like despair. Bulgaria had exploited that upheaval by annexing Eastern Rumelia: Greece had failed to annex Crete, and ran the risk, if the Young Turks' experiment succeeded, of seeing the {3} fulfilment of all her national aspirations frustrated for ever. A group of military malcontents in touch with the Cretan leader translated the popular feeling into action: a revolt against the reign of venality and futility which had for so many years paralyzed every effort, which had sometimes sacrificed and always subordinated the interests of the nation to the interests of faction, and now left Greece a prey to Bulgarian and Ottoman ambition. The old politicians who were the cause of the ill obviously could not effect a cure. A new man was needed-a man free from the deadening influences of a corrupt past-a man daring enough to initiate a new course and tenacious enough to push on with inexorable purpose to the goal.

During the first period of his career, M. Venizelos had been a capable organizer of administrative departments no less than a clever manipulator of seditious movements. But he had mainly distinguished himself as a rebel against authority. And it was in the temper of a rebel that he came to Athens. Obstacles, however, external as well as internal, made a subversive enterprise impossible. With the quick adaptability of his nature, he turned into a guardian of established institutions: the foe of revolution and friend of reform. Supported by the Crown, he was able to lift his voice for a "Revisionist" above the angry sea of a multitude clamouring for a "Constituent Assembly."