Churchill and the Dardanelles

Churchill and the Dardanelles

Christopher M. Bell

Oxford University Press, New York, 2017, 464 pages

Book Review published on: February 16, 2018

In Churchill and the Dardanelles, writer and naval historian Christopher M. Bell presents a comprehensive and thoroughly exhaustive account of the events leading up to and the execution of the naval campaign in the Straits of the Dardanelles in 1915, a campaign that nearly destroyed Winston Churchill’s political career. Unlike the previous discussions of this campaign, the author dispels the many layers of myths and hearsay surrounding it. Churchill has been praised and also condemned for his role in launching this risky and controversial naval-only campaign to force Turkey out of the war. Many at the time, and since, have viewed the Dardanelles operation as a brilliant concept that could have shortened World War I; others view Churchill’s actions as those of a reckless amateur who drove his colleagues into an operation doomed to fail.

This book goes into great detail of the events leading up to the battle and the battle itself, as well as all the political maneuvers and discussions that occurred behind the scenes. This discussion of the Allies’ attempt to gain control of the Dardanelles and the events leading to the decision to execute the operation make this a must read book on World War I; it clearly shows that there is no simple verdict to support either side of the discussion. Bell takes a complex and detailed series of events and explains them in such a way that any reader can come away with a clearer understanding of what occurred during this very trying time in World War I and why decisions were made.

For the military reader or historian, Churchill and the Dardanelles is a necessary and relevant source to understand the complexity of modern large-scale combat warfare on a continental scale at the political, strategic, and operational levels of war. It is not a narrative of just the fighting. It is a comprehensive study all leaders need to understand, at any level of war. It is about policy, strategy, and fighting in a level of detail most books on World War I in particular, or those on military history in general, do not go into or explain. This is a detailed discussion that will educate the reader, dispel myths, and help leaders to recognize all the issues present in modern industrial warfare and the challenges they present to politicians and military leaders that are involved in planning and executing major combat operations.

Book Review written by: Lt. Col. Jeffrey L. LaFace, U.S. Army, Retired, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas