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great thing is to keep on a straight course").
Therefore Robertson congratulates Reping-
ton on his conduct, as the noble work of
a patriot, and condoles with him on his

Maurice also writes {Diaries, February 24) that
he has ' ' been ordered not to talk to him about the
war" (Robertson has left the War Office), but that
"I have the greatest admiration for your deter-
mination and courage."

Repington and Robertson had interviews of the
friendliest kind on March 15, March 25, April 3,
April II, May 10, July 20, August 15, October 25,
19 1 8. Repington 's behaviour did not diminish but
increased the cordiality of their friendship.

The second set of observations, to which Rob-
ertson's letter dated February 25 gives rise, are
these :

First. — Robertson writes as if he and Repington
had been engaged in a common enterprise:


"Like yourself, I did what I thought was

Secondly. — Robertson writes as if it was rather
an improper enterprise: "The sordid busi-
ness of the past month."

Thirdly. — Robertson writes as if this enterprise
had started about January 25 — "the past
month"; the Session of the Supreme War
Council in question in Repington's article
began a few days after January 25.

Fourthly. — Robertson writes as if the object
of this common enterprise had been to up-
set the Government, but that it had failed:
"The country had just as good a govern-
ment as it deserved to have"; "The result
has been exactly as I expected would be the

Fifthly. — P.obertson writes as if the publication
of the Mor7ii7ig Post article had been part of
this enterprise: "Your sacrifice has been

Therefore this letter strongly suggests that dur-
ing the previous month Robertson and Repington
had been collaborating in a joint enterprise, called
"sordid" by Robertson himself, of which the ob-
ject wa.s to upset the Government, and that the
publication of Repington's article had been part of



this enterprise. This is the supposition which the
language of Robertson's letter almost exactly fits.

A violent dispute had arisen between Robertson
and the War Cabinet on the Versailles decisions in
the second week of February. On Thursday, Feb-
ruary 14, Mr. Lloyd George had decided to replace
Robertson by Sir Henry Wilson as Chief of the
Imperial General Staff.

Repington's article disclosing the Versailles de-
cisions and the military plans of the Alliance ap-
peared during the second week of February, on
February 1 1 ; he invited the House of Commons to
withdraw their confidence in Mr. Lloyd George be-
cause he had participated in these decisions and
formed these plans.

On February 5 the then leader of the Opposition,
Mr. Asquith, had asked the Government what the
Versailles decisions had been, but had been refused
all information. Not knowing what they were, he
could not make them the ground for attack on the
Government. On February 12 the business of the
House was to be the Debate on the Address, which
always gives the Opposition the opportimity of
attacking the Government on any ground it likes
to choose. Repington's article, on February 11,
gave Mr. Asquith the knowledge he required, and,



armed with it, he attacked Mr. Lloyd George on
February 12, but without success.

The Repington article, therefore, was, in fact,
used inside the House of Commons against the
Government at a moment when Robertson was
quarrelling with the Government, and he was on
the point of ceasing to be Chief of the Imperial
General Staff.

III. Repington's Informant

Who gave Repington the information about our
military plans which he disclosed to the public, and
therefore to the enemy, in his Morning Post article
of February 11?

Repington has given an explanation in his Dia-
ries. An account of the debate and decisions of the
Supreme War Council was given to him, so he de-
clares, by Clemenceau on February 3. This he
reproduced in his Morning Post article. In his
Diaries there is a long account of his interview with
Clemenceau, and various opinions and items of
information are put in the mouth of Clemenceau.
But it is difficult to accept this explanation.

Here I must very reluctantly thrust myself for-
ward. I acted as interpreter at the debate in ques-



tion, as I did in nearly all inter- Allied discussions at
Versailles while there. Any of the members of the
Supreme War Council, or of the Military Repre-
sentatives, or of the Executive War Board, and
several other committees, would speak at full tilt
for four or five minutes in English or French, and
then halt. It was then my duty as the interpreter,
with the help of a few hurried notes, at once to
translate all they had said into the opposite lan-
guage. This used to go on for hours, so that the
interpreter more or less committed the whole de-
bate to memory. As amendments in either lan-
guages, French or English, were introduced into
the bilingual resolutions submitted, it was my duty
as interpreter and secretary to alter the bilingual
text; so that I became very familiar with the text
of their decisions. As assistant secretary it was
my duty on that particular occasion subsequently
to draft the minutes of the meeting; and jointly
with the secretary, I also had control of all these
written records of the Supreme War Council,
resolutions, minutes, decisions, and all copies. As
assistant secretary, too, previously to the meeting,
all the information on which the resolutions were
founded had passed before me, and all documents
returned into the joint custody of the secretary and



myself. The part I played was, therefore, very
subordinate and, if difficult, rather mechanical.
But my knowledge of this debate and decisions (as
of nearly all inter-Allied discussions) was not an
impresson acqiiired by hearsay, or as a casual
hearer; it was an impression stamped into me by a
process drastic and multiple in itself, and arduous
and exhausting to me, and giving me a knowledge of
it minute, complete, and profound, far greater than
that possessed by any of the great Olympians (who
never listened to each other with anything like the
attention I was compelled to use), and checked by
the possession of all necessary documents. This
knowledge was still clear and exact when Reping-
ton's Morning Post article appeared on February
II, and even now it is not altogether effaced.
This knowledge prevents me accepting his ex-

This close pursuit and reproduction of a speaker's
words also constitute a microscopic examination
of his mind, especially when the same interpreter
usually acts for the same people, and this study
is also reinforced by reading at leisure documents
drafted by these speakers. The speaker, however
eminent, places his mind as if imder a powerful
magnifying lens for the observation of the inter-



preter. I mention this because this almost involun-
tary study is the base of most of my opinions.

No doubt an interview took place with Clemen-
ceau, and some parts of Repington's explanation
look real, but as a whole the account can hardly be
accepted as quite genuine, for two reasons:

First. — The views put in the mouth of Clemen-
ceau, and the views expressed in the Morn-
ing Post article, are not the views of M.

Secondly. — The items of information put in the
mouth of M. Clemenceau, and still more the
items of information divulged by Repington
in the Morning Post could not be obtained
from M. Clemenceau, but only from records
of the Supreme War Council, which were
not then in the hands of M. Clemenceau.

But the views attributed to M. Clemenceau and
the views expressed in the Morning Post were the
views of General Robertson; and particular copies
of the records from which alone Repington could
obtain his information were in the hands of General

The evidence of this contention must necessarily
be elaborate and detailed, and can hardly be set out



While the Session took place at Versailles,
Robertson and Maurice stayed in Paris; so did

When Repington was prosecuted, Maurice is
mentioned by the Press as having attended at the
police court during the opening of the case for the

Therefore, as it is difficult to accept Repington's
explanation that he obtained his information from
the French source he mentions ; as the only possible
source of his information was copies of the records
of the Session of the Supreme War Council in the
hands of General Robertson ; as he expressed in his
Morning Post article the views of General Robert-
son; as, in his letter dated February 25, Robertson
uses language strongly suggesting that the publica-
tion of the article was intended to assist Robertson
in upsetting Mr. Lloyd George, and it was, in fact,
so used in the House of Commons ; these considera-
tions, taken together with the previous and sub-
sequent relations existing between, form a mass of
circimistantial evidence pointing with imdeviating
finger at General Robertson himself as having sup-
plied Repington with the information he published.

If all Robertson's Staff Officers were as eager
Press agents as his chief Staff Officer, Maurice,



there could be no difficulty in doing so. Almost all
the papers officially sent by the Military Represen-
tatives at Versailles to Robertson in London in
December and January must have been seen by
Repington, or numerous entries in his Diaries would
be impossible; and they could not have been seen
by him unless Robertson was willing they should be.

To this conclusion, so damaging to Robertson,
converge the many forms of proof supplied, quite
involuntarily, by Repington ; it is Repington's des-
tiny to give evidence, in the intoxication of his
vanity, against the very party in whose favour he
comes forward to testify.

If this supposition, that Robertson was the in-
formant, seems shocking, it is no more shocking
than the fact that Robertson approved of Reping-
ton's disclosures, both by his words and his acts.
The difference in culpability between applauding
and instigating such conduct is faint and shadowy,
if it exists at all. The same censure applies to
Maurice, who is so hardened in these practices,
that even now he writes as if unconscious that dis-
closure of one's country's military plans to the
enemy in time of war is wrongful, however obtained
and whatever the object.'

* See his article in National Review, Oct., 1920.



IV. General Conclusions

One more incident in the relations of Robertson,
Repington, and Maurice, is worth mentioning.

On May 6, Maurice wrote a letter to the Press,
which was published, and which accused the Prime
Minister of being untruthful. It led the Army
Council, on May 12, to place him forthwith on
retired pay. On May 9, the Maurice letter was dis-
cussed in the House of Commons, which again sup-
ported Mr. Lloyd George, just as it had supported
him on February 12 and 20, in spite of the Reping-
ton article. On May 10, the trio, Robertson, Mau-
rice, and Repington, dined together {Diaries, May


Repington does not record their feelings or con-
versation at this melancholy feast, but, by way of
showing what I believe their motives to have been,
I will imagine what it was.

They deplored that the Repington article had
failed to upset Mr. Lloyd George in February : if it
had, Mr. Asquith would again have been Prime
Minister, and he never would have substituted Sir
Henry Wilson for Sir William Robertson, as chief
of the Imperial General Staff; they also deplored
that the Maurice letter had failed to upset Mr.



Lloyd George the day before: if it had, Mr. As-
quith would again have been Prime Minister, and
he might have dismissed Sir Henry Wilson, and
restored Robertson. The text itself of the Maurice
letter affords some evidence of this. He loudly dis-
claims acting with or for any one else, and an-
nounces that he speaks only for himself. But he
protests too much. If this was strictly true, it prob-
ably would not have occurred to him to mention it.
Either of these two little coups d'etat would have
made Robertson Chief of the Imperial General
Staff and Maurice Director of Military Operations
till we lost the war, and satisfied the personal feud
of Repington with Sir Henry Wilson.' These were
the real motives, in the time of their country's ex-
treme peril, of this trio, who still persist in address-
ing the public as if the spirit of military duty was
incarnate in themselves and in themselves alone.
Maurice in this respect is egregious. In spite of be-
ing compulsorily retired from the army for a breach
of the regulations, he writes articles as an authority
on the conduct becoming an officer.^ Though his
offence was the discussion of military affairs in the

^ This personal feud and its origin, were fully discussed in
an article in the Observer, in 191 8.

* See The National Review, Oct. issue, 1920, p. 196.



Press, he takes it upon himself to rebuke "subordi-
nates at Versailles, ' ' among whom he knows by some
extraordinary chance that "gossip was rife," for
this indulgence.' His effrontery is sublime.
* See same article in National Review.





Unity of Command in JQ17

I WAS personally a witness of the events of the
spring of 19 18 in which Sir Douglas Haig declined
to obey the decisions of the Supreme War Council.
There is an almost exact parallel between these
events and those of 19 17, as given in the despatch
of the French Prime Minister, M. Briand, dated
March 6, 1917, to Mr. Lloyd George, and herein
set out below.

This despatch is quoted in several French semi-
official accounts, such as Major de Civrieux's
U Offensive de 191 7 (Gamier, Paris), and Fragments
d'Histoire, III, by Mermeix (Ollendorf, Paris).

M. Briand does not set out Sir Douglas Haig's
letter of March 4, 19 17, to Nivelle; but this letter
was evidently, from his analysis of it, confused and
almost imintelligible. While Sir Douglas refused
to obey the decisions of the Calais Conference, he
evidently avoided any justification of this refusal
by introducing irrelevant topics; in these respects



it is exactly like his letter of March 2, 191 8, to
Foch and the Executive War Board. The historian
who wishes to gauge the intellectual calibre of
Haig (and he will never understand the war other-
wise) should collect all his personal communications
and memoranda with the War Cabinet and the
Supreme War Council, and read them.

In one of the above works, V Offensive de 191 7,
a French Military Attache in London, Berthier de
Sauvigny, is quoted as officially reporting a con-
versation of two hours between himself and Mr.
Lloyd George, in Colonel Hankey's room in Lon-
don on February 15, 1917: in it Mr. Lloyd George
assures him of the eagerness of the War Cabinet
for a single supreme command, though "the pres-
tige of Marshal Haig with the Army and the Eng-
lish people make it difficult to subordinate him to a
French Commander." The anonymous author of
Fragments d'Histoire — who is, however, not very
reliable — declares that after the receipt of this
despatch of M. Briand, Mr. Lloyd George told the
French he was not strong enough to compel Haig.
This is what Briand asks for: "Le mar^chal Haig
doit ^tre mis en demeure " ; but it was certainly not
done, and a compromise, dictated by Haig, adopted
in London, March 13.



The Despatch of M. Briand to Mr.
Lloyd George: —

March 6, 191 7.

General Nivelle has just communicated to the
Comite de Guerre Frangais, the memorandum of
March 2nd sent by Marshal Haig to General
Robertson. This document gave rise, on the part
of the Comite de Guerre Frangais, to the following
remarks : —

On February 2"^, immediately after the Confer-
ence of Calais, General Nivelle sent a letter to
Marshal Haig which reached him the same day,
in which

1 . He confirmed the plan of operations and the
date of the offensive.

2. He asked for the orders given to the British

3. He asked for the organization of the Etat-
Major of the English Mission, the creation of which
had been decided upon at the second meeting of the
Conference of Calais. Six days later, March 4,
Marshal Haig replied by a letter in which he merel}^
stated : —

I . His opinion on the subject of the German re-
pulse {repli) on the Ancre.



2. His hypothetical fears on the subject of a
German attack in Flanders.

3. His doubts of the utility to the G.Q.G.
Frangais, of the Organized Mission, and of the
possibility of being ready to attack on the date set.

To this letter was attached a copy of the note
sent by him to General Robertson to be submitted
to the War Committee.

From this note resulted : —

1. The determination not to accept the deci-
sions of the Conference of Calais.

2. The constant tendency to question again the
plan of operations accepted by the Conference,
where the chiefs of the English and French Govern-
ments were assembled, furnished with the full
powers of the two Governments, and of their War
Committees — a tendency all the more dangerous
as the time for the offensive drew near.

3. A marked tendency to give up taking the
initiative of the operations, manifested by making
much of all that the Germans might do or plan,
without reflecting that we might profit by the same
advantages. For example: i^" alinea du A; i^
du By tout le D, enfin tout le F qui envisage au
dernier alinea. The reduction of the British co-
operation and even the abandonment of the plan.



The general spirit of this document indicates a
feeHng opposed to the offensive.

The plan ascribed to the Germans of attacking
in the North is possible, but rests on no certain
basis; for that matter, one can make ntimerous
hypotheses of the same sort in regard to all the
points of the Front : Rheims, Soissons, Champagne,
Lorraine, Alsace.

Only one real fact exists, which existed already
at the time of the resolutions of Calais, and that is
the repulse {repli) on the Ancre.

General Nivelle has decided in consequence —

1. That no change will be made, unless new
events arise, in the plan of general operations.

2. That only the secondary attack on the Ancre,
of which the end is partly attained, was suppressed,
thus creating a release (disponibilite) of about 6
divisions which for the moment will be left at the
disposal of Marshal Haig. The abandonment of
this attack is calculated to strengthen the attack on
Arras and to hasten its preparation, since there is
now only one front of attack to provide with stores
and munitions.

The repeated tendency of Marshal Haig to avoid
(se derober) the instructions given to him, to ques-
tion incessantly the offensive itself, the plan of



operations, and that at a moment so near the time
of execution, would render the co-operation of the
British forces illusory, and make impossible the
exercise of a sole command.

Consequently, Marshal Haig should be obliged,
without further delay, to conform to the decisions
of the Conference of Calais, and to the instructions
given to him by General Nivelle.

It is important, moreover, that General Nivelle
should have as soon as possible the use of a qualified
intermediary between him and the English forces,
in order to be advised of the disposition of these
forces and to communicate his instructions to them.
The Comite de Guerre Frangais urges that General
Wilson, who has already acted in a similar capacity
at the beginning of the campaign, be appointed to
this position.

In case the War Committee should not see the
way to remedy, without delay, the serious disad-
vantages cited, it would not be possible for the
French Commander-in-Chief to secure unity of
operation on the western front, and the French
Government, to its great regret, could only deplore
this situation.




Keystone View Co., Inc.



General Cough's Confidential Report

The despatches of Sir Douglas Haig on the
battle of St. Quentin conceal the fact that the 5th
Army under Gough received little or no support,
and, by their language, also suggest (without,
however, any explicit statement) that he was
properly reinforced, and therefore that it failed
through its own fault. But this Army was left
unassisted, unrelieved, and, in a general sense, was
left alone to meet the whole weight of the German
attack, and abandoned. This, the real fact, is to
the discredit of Sir Douglas Haig. The Despatches,
by their artful omissions and suggestions, and ab-
sence of any encomium, tend to transfer the blame
for this great defeat from him to the 5th Army.

But the 5th Army incurred no blame. On the
contrary, they fought with heroic courage and en-
durance against the greatest odds. Instead of the
mis-esteem, and perhaps reprobation, which this
official accovint has cast on them, they deserve great



honour and still greater gratitude, neither of which
they have ever received. For their resistance
should not only in itself be memorable as a splendid
feat of arms, but it saved the Allied armies.

My version of the events, especially the late and
insufficient assistance we received from the French,
as against the official version, was called into ques-
tion by several critics when I published it. The
honour and credit of Cough's Army seemed to me
to be sufficiently important for me to produce my
evidence. As to whether he was adequately sup-
ported or not, there could be no better witness than
Gough himself. I therefore applied to General
Gough for permission to publish extracts from his
confidential Report on the battle, made for and
sent to G.H.Q., and obtained his permission. The
following are the relevant extracts : —

Extracts from General Gough' s Confidential
Report on the Battle of St. Quentin.

"The 5th Army consisted of fourteen Infantry
divisions and three Cavalry divisions.

• • • • •

"Preparations: —

" It was evident before March i that a great
attack was pending on the 5th Army.



"I held several conferences with Corps Com-
manders in which the situation was clearly laid
before them.

"It was pointed out that within a seventy-five
mile radius of the centre of the army front lay some
thirty to fifty German divisions, who could con-
centrate on the army by road and rail in three

"The utmost energy was urged on all corps to
get on with the necessary defensive works of all
kinds, and time for rest and training was reduced
to a minimimi.

• • • • •

" The Battle :—

"At or just before 5 a.m., March 21, a very heavy
bombardment opened all along the army front.

"By 5.15 A.M. all corps received orders — 'Man
Battle Stations.'

"Up to 8.30 A.M. no infantry action was
reported, but bombardment was heavy.

" Between 9.40 a.m. and 10.30 a.m. reports came
in of hostile attacks.




"Between 10.30 a.m. and 11.30 a.m. reports
came in showing that the attack was general along
the whole army front.

"Between 11.30 a.m. and 1.30 p.m. it became
evident that the hostile attack was being made in
overwhelming masses along nearly all the army

"In fact it was becoming evident to me about
this time and during the afternoon, that I would
shortly have to make a decision between fighting a
decisive battle with the 5th Army or carrying out a
delaying action, which, while inflicting heavy loss
on the enemy, held him up as long as possible, but
always maintained an intact, even though battered
and thin line, between him and the arrival of the
General Reserves, in the hands of the British and
French Chiefs.

"I was aware that, from the British sources, I
could only expect one division at a time, at intervals
of seventy-two hours, and that the first to arrive
could not be expected for seventy-two hours.

"The French division, after the first two, would
not arrive any faster.



"Such Reserves were bound to appear too slowly
to enable me to maintain my whole front of forty
miles for several days with the divisions at my dis-
posal, when that front was being attacked along
its whole front and when every division I possess
was being hard pressed and would require relief
in two or three days.

"In the case of the French, these divisions would

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Online LibraryPeter E WrightAt the Supreme War Council → online text (page 9 of 10)