Murdoch Delivers the Dispatch

At this point in time, Murdoch was not in a position of visualizing any credible resolutions to the challenges of the Gallipoli War. According to him, it was crucial for Hamilton to be recalled from the warfront, together with his Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Sir Braithwaite. This, in his view would restore the morale of the shaken forces. Murdoch was also of the view that whenever troops would lose faith in their General, the possibility was that the General must have lost proved his Achilles' heel. As a result, the most appropriate thing to do in such  circumstances is to recall the General (Murdoch 39-50).

These were some of the opinions by Murdoch. However, the authenticity of his sentiments was questionable. This is mainly because his visit was somewhat too short for him to develop such rigid conclusions about the operation and its leadership. In his case, Murdoch,, in normal journalistic instincts, would have felt it wiser to look into the accusations in  deeper and thorough way.

Had he taken  more pragmatic approach, he would not have written a letter with such accusations to the Prime Minister. However, from the discussions with Ashmead-Bartlett, he had been able to work out the truth. This included that he had signed in terms of the censorship, being seriously convinced on how serious the impending disasters were (Murdoch 39-50). As a result, it is for this particular reason that Murdoch thought of sending information to the authorities in London.

When Murdoch finally recorded the occurrences at Gallipoli, it put him in a very awkward position. After three days, Lloyd George, a strong opposition to the campaign at Gallipoli, read the dispatch (Marshall 176-180). He immediately reacted and urged that Murdoch  have a copy sent to the British Prime Minister. Murdoch knew that his opportune moment had finally arrived. When he was drafting the dispatch, he included a cover note where he attempted to reduce the veracity of his disparagement.

On reading the dispatch, the Prime Minister used it in a reprehensible way. He did not wait for Kitchener to study it. As a matter of fact, he failed to verify the authenticity of the claims. In addition to this, he did not make any follow up with Murdoch for comments. He went ahead to have it printed on the state paper. In order to aggravate the situation, he sent the dispatch to members of Dardanelles Committee, which was charged with the responsibility of overseeing the Gallipoli campaign (Ashmead-Bartlett and Bean 87-102).

Later Ashmead-Bartlett was  to arrive in London when the committee was learning the dispatch. Both of them seized the opportunity and began the campaign against Hamilton.  Ashmead-Bartlett became busy substantiating the evidence in the letter and went ahead to write his own article  in The Times Sunday edition. This ensured that they had the backing from Northcliffe. By the time that the Dardanelles Committee met on the 14th October, they had been successful in ending Hamilton’s career, with Kitchener being the one to break the news to them.

Consequently, the evacuation from Gallipoli began in earnest on December 12, 1915. There was the setting up of the Royal Commission of August 1916 for the purpose of investigating the operation as well as its top command. Again, Ashmead-Bartlett and Murdoch had the opportunity of giving evidence on their own accounts and happenings. Eventually, the commission found out that the entire campaign was a major blunder (Ashmead-Bartlett and Bean 87-102).

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The greatest concern was that war correspondents underwent serious difficulties, which were similar to one another. This was due to the unrelenting censorship and that was subject to a similar amount of pressure coming from the general staff led by Hamilton. In actual sense, it was a big relief that Murdoch and Ashmead-Bartlett managed to divulge the occurrences in spite of the censorship.

In comparison with France, war correspondents of which were more steadfast, chances are that the war could not have reached such grisly levels. This is mainly due to the fact that the war correspondence would have brought out the real picture on the ground without acting as propaganda machinery. However, Ashmead-Bartlett had his own views regarding the generals as well as the censorships. This is evident from his diary. Some of the earlier letters that Ashmead-Bartlett dispatched were full of praise for the troops (Ashmead-Bartlett and Bean 87-102).

Over some time, this began to wane, and he became critical of their leadership approach as well as the way they handled the war correspondents. In his conviction, he believed that the leadership style led to the sacrifice of far more men. On many occasions, he would warn the readers of the Daily Telegraph in London of the military strength of the Turkish troops (Macleod 38-46). However, this was different from the reports of previous correspondents and different messages from what that the GHQ official communiqués gave back to government. Nevertheless, this was changed with time even as the censorship took center stage.

There were stark warnings in terms of censorship from the military command and general staff. Although this was so, to his surprise, Ashmead-Bartlett had some undeveloped films being confiscated. These included some contents he had the permission to take. In one or other account, he lost the entire notes he had made with the sinking of the HMS Majestic in the Gallipoli peninsula (Ashmead-Bartlett and Bean 87-102).

Thereafter, he opted to return to London and have his typewriter replaced. It is while in London that he attempted to consult some political elite on the challenges he had witnessed in Gallipoli and the possibility of disaster due to the strength of the Ottoman Turks as well as the inefficiency of Hamilton’s leadership (Macleod 38-46).

On his return, the problems with the dispatches as well as censorship continued without any positive changes. This was a substantial cause for him to be angered and he somewhat became hopeless. This was the case until the arrival of Murdoch when the idea that they hatched saw them to attempt having the uncensored dispatch out.

Murdoch’s Assistance to Ashmead-Bartlett

It took the visit by Murdoch, in August 1915, after receiving General Birdwood’s permission to visit Anzac for four days. At this point in time, he had signed the official declaration concerning the censorship. After having managed to talk with Ashmead-Bartlett, he saw it prudent enough to accept  conveying the letter by Ashmead-Bartlett. It was addressed the Prime Minister of Britain, Herbert Asquith (Marshall 176-180).

The information was uncensored and contained pejorative information concerning the Gallipoli operation. It would be very risky in case if the army confiscated it prior to his ship reaching England. However, this was not to be because of the steadfast intelligence of Hamilton and his men but more because of the Guardian correspondents selling them out.

On his arrival to London, Murdoch was able to compile the letter that contained more than 8000 words to the Prime Minister of Australia, Andrew Fisher. However, this letter had errors as well as exaggerations praising the Australian troops but demonizing the British troops. However, it had considerable truthful substantiation that was enough to put the operation to the end (Ashmead-Bartlett and Bean 87-102). One thing that the letter contributed was the removal of Sir Ian Hamilton on the 17th   October. The success of this saw the evacuation of allied troops from the area.

All correspondence was to remain in conformity with the military instructions concerning the censorship and ensuring that any negative information concerning the operation would not leak. The information that Murdoch was carrying in the letter got to be known through the spy who was planted in the camp. Consequently, the letter was captured, resulting in the War Office telegraphing Sir Hamilton and ordering that Ashmead-Bartlett to be recalled back to London. By that time, Ashmead-Bartlett’s career as a war correspondence in Gallipoli was coming to the end.  

That did not mark the end of the military censorship on information regarding the Gallipoli war. Soon after leaving Gallipoli, Ashmead-Bartlett was diagnosed with jaundice and would spend the entire month hospitalized. During the same period, he had received 25 invitations to hold lectures all over England. Then he travelled to Australia as well as New Zealand where he gave more than 75 extra lectures. In his account, Ashmead-Bartlett wrote that there were a number of representatives from the War Office attending most of his lectures Ashmead-Bartlett and Bean 87-102).

Some detectives as well as officers had the instructions to have him arrested should he say anything that would embarrass the government. Fortunately, nothing in this regard took place. After a while, no one bothered him during the lectures that followed. The officers only attended the first few lectures, and gave up soon after. However, the arrest threats as well as the censors never died down for the rest of the lectures he delivered.

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At some point, during his visit to New York on December 22, 1915, he again had an encounter with representatives from the War Office. This was mainly because of exposing the incompetence of the military in handling the Gallipoli War (Marshall 176-180).

On the Australian side, the reporting was mainly from the official Australian War Correspondent Charles Bean. His reports were still under the scrutiny of the censors. Instead, it came from the British War Correspondent Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett. However, it was not full of the colorful, dramatic accounts, devoid of any tactical reporting or accurate assessment of gains and losses (Ashmead-Bartlett and Bean 87-102).

Most of the newspapers in Australia and Britain had reports that were made up of combinations of moments of accurate descriptions with the less than accurate descriptions, including the lashings of hyperboles and emotions. Some of the reports were actually heaven-sent with regard to securing the establishment of the freedom of the press and truthful information regarding the war that had ensued.

Charles Bean is one of the correspondents who had gone ashore earlier than Ashmead-Bartlett and had quickly written less colorful but wide-ranging accounts of the first and subsequent days. His accounts were more detailed and more accurate than his British counterpart’s. Nevertheless, the British military authorities held it over until 13 May, and it appeared in Australia on May14. The reports soon became set in concrete as it were, printed as early as May 18 in official booklets.

Additional accounts of the Gallipoli appeared. At some point, a speech by the imperial patriotic author Fitchett indicated that the achievements of the Anzacs at Gallipoli were comparable to the Waterloo (Ashmead-Bartlett and Bean 87-102). It also indicated that the Waterloo episode surpassed it in the fact that Anzacs’ achievement at Gallipoli equaled Waterloo and surpassed it in one respect that the troops under Wellington did not have the guts as well as dare to go up the cliff. In this regard, a historian, Ken Inglis, pointed out that Charles Bean publicized the existence or emergence of characters that the wartime experience and performance of the Anzacs were the key signs that indicated that the Gallipoli War was basically a big mess (Ashmead-Bartlett).

Newspapers arrived at Gallipoli with these reports from the 8th June. This included the wireless messages that were beamed from the Eiffel Tower, written up daily on a notice board for the troops. Australian historian Ken Inglis, states that the Bulletin was the most popular paper at Gallipoli. Most of the Anzac troops were identified with Ginger Mick and C.J. Dennis who was a hero due to his doggerel verses (Ashmead-Bartlett and Bean 87-102).

By and large, the accounts by Charles Bean continued to be reported without any form of denunciation as part of the propaganda. This is because the official correspondent as well as the stringent censorships of all other correspondents covered events which took place in the Gallipoli war (Macleod 38-46).

Some of the events were actually greased with lies about the success as well as the good health of troops. The reports were beneficial since they resulted in the first of the casualties being treated with the seriousness demanded by the dire situation on the ground. However, in many aspects, the leadership style of the troop’s leader, Sir Ian Hamilton, did not assist the troops. Likewise, the reports by Charles Bean did not ameliorate the dire situation (Ashmead-Bartlett and Bean 87-102).

Generally, there is a possibility of regarding such complexities in the issues as the main triggers to the number of lives being lost. Had there been fearless reporting without censorship from the military top brass, it was highly likely that the troop withdrawal and evacuation should have happened well in advance, thus minimizing the loss of life.

However, it took the brilliance of two correspondents to bring out the true nature of the operation. The trial and error by Ashmead-Bartlett and Keith Murdoch eventually bore fruits, especially to the general public. This is because the public was now convinced that the reports brought out the real issues that mattered in the war front. As a result, the hoodwinking by the Gallipoli troops command came to be known (Ashmead-Bartlett and Bean 87-102). All in all, it had to be known that the camp where the war correspondents occupied was a den of spies. This was especially after the attempt by Ashmead-Bartlett and Keith Murdoch to get the story out first hit a snag with the capture of Murdoch by the army (Marshall 176-180).

According to Ken Inglis, the historian, Charles Bean must have publicized the existence or emergence of character, especially following wartime experience and performance of the Anzacs that began at Gallipoli. Additionally, it ought to be known that Gallipoli was a defining moment in the nationhood for Australians as well as New Zealanders (Ashmead-Bartlett and Bean 87-102). These, however, sounded very uncomfortable following the failure of the Gallipoli campaign. In spite of these facts, a number of foreign observers express this view. However, for Bean and others that follow, their achievement was in the form of survival, not victory, and the manner of conduct in defeat, which is a victory of the spirit.

Why the Reporting was Not Right

According to Oosterman, most of the reporting on the Gallipoli war was not appropriate since most of the war correspondents had very little control as a result of the censorships. As a matter of fact, there were several complaints on the issues regarding censorship (Oosterman 13-15). These complaints were even to surface long after the declaration of the war in August 1914. In the Gallipoli War, the censorships continued at the Dardanelles, thus directly affecting the war correspondents and indirectly affecting the reading public (Oosterman 13-15).

Additionally, all the war correspondents had the obligation of taking as well as signing oaths. Under the same oaths, the correspondents were forced to abide by the rules which were delivered by the Chief Censor. They were  not to try to correspond by any other channels apart form the ones officially sanctioned (Oosterman 13-15). In this regard, most of the correspondents complained about the rigidity of the censorships. This is mainly because they were not to mention any names of the military units since they were afraid of the enemy camps having access to vital information (Oosterman 13-15).

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It is worth noting that even though a number of war correspondents generally acknowledged the need of the censorships during the period of the war, nevertheless they  thought that the way it was administered was unreasonably poor and severe (Oosterman 13-15). In addition to this, Hamilton’s principles with regard to the censorships were not usually correctly interpreted by his subordinates. At times, a number of them acted as if they were turgid editors as well as contradictory censors. At some point, even Ashmead-Bartlett complained of never-ending foolishness of the censorships. In one of his articles, he wrote that “only a few dry bones are left to the public” (Oosterman 13-15).

The tragic failure of the Gallipoli War was basically the result of improper planning as well as poor management. Over and above, the failure of London to commit absolutely to the war resulted in the compromise that existed between inaction as well as executing a proper campaign. Eventually, considerably over 100,000 troops died with far more being injured. This as well, affected any further historic significance of the events that transpired here. This is because, in this context the issues to do with the war became complex.

The first casualty of the Gallipoli campaign was the truth. This was due as a result of the censorship that blocked the candid covering of the events. Were it not the efforts by Ashmead-Bartlett and Keith Murdoch, the disaster in that was Gallipoli would have been more massive. In many ways, the media can be a force of protection against the atrocities in the war fronts. On the other hand, poor reporting can always compound casualties.

For quite some time, there has been rigid relationship between the untutored media and the suspicion it raises with the military. This aspect gets worse because of the suspicions the military has with having the story covered and told as it is. There is the need to be a fine line between the censorship meant for tactical reasons and when it has to be transparent for that gets to the public.

The Gallipoli campaign brings out major concerns in terms of what reports the government should be gotten during military operations and what is the real case on the ground. The debacle that was the Gallipoli campaign saw the crucial events being shielded from the key stakeholders, who were the governments. This was because of the censorship from the military command, led by Sir Ian Hamilton. Were it not the efforts by Keith Murdoch and the fearless insight of Ashmead-Bartlett, the extent of the war would have been catastrophic to the Anzacs. It was for this reason that free reporting should have been permitted to prevail and this should be so in any war situations.

What is evident in all this is the fact that there can be a delay in terms of what is inevitable. With the capture of Murdoch and confiscation of Ashmead-Bartlett's letters, solutions had to be sought. This was because as it happened, Murdoch had written his own letters. In fact, his version was more emotional and still had the substance of criticism that Ashmead-Bartlett had to go through. The consequences that both Murdoch and Ashmead-Bartlett would have faced were grave. However, one powerful press baron in Britain, Lord Northcliffe saved them. His newspaper supported these two journalists, thus bringing in the power of journalism in justice and transparency.

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