CHURCHILL, Winston S. Autograph letter signed to Admiral Sir John Jellicoe [Commander of the Grand Fleet, later 1st Earl Jellicoe], Admiralty, Whitehall, 1 June 1915, 4 pages, 8vo.
THE 'GREEK TRAGEDY' OF THE DARDANELLES. Writing a fortnight after the abrupt resignation of the 1st Sea Lord, Sir John Fisher, and a week after his own dismissal from the Admiralty, Churchill reflects on what was to be one of great crises in his political fortunes: his rupture with Fisher, which he categorises as a 'separation' rather than a quarrel, is 'among the most painful things in my life', and Churchill has been looking through his correspondence with his old friend and 'musing regretfully upon the vanished pleasures of his comradeship & society'. The letter continues with a regret-filled catalogue of the Gallipoli disaster, which he characterises as 'a Greek tragedy', moving from early successes which transformed what was originally intended as an experimental sortie into an unshakeable commitment; the 'awful delays' of the military side of the expedition, 'week after week consumed while the Germans taught the Turks to entrench ...'. Striking a more optimistic note, Churchill refers to Balfour's 'cool quiet courage' and the news of Italy's declaration of war on Austria the previous month, concluding with warm praise of his correspondent 'I have always felt quite safe with you at sea', paying tribute to his 'patience ... nerve ... practice & experience'.
Sir John Fisher, always opposed to the gamble at Gallipoli and provoked by Churchill's demand for reinforcements in the face of the bloody stalemate that ensued, had resigned abruptly on 15 May, prompting Asquith to dismiss Churchill a week later, though he retained his office at the Admiralty at the date of the present letter in order to complete business there before transferring to the lesser post of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. It was a decisive crisis in his political fortunes, and threw him into deep depression. Jellicoe had written a restrained but sympathetic letter on 29 May recognising Churchill's devotion to the Navy.