The Life of Lieutenant-General Sir Aylmer Hunter-Weston MP
Chapter Ten: A Dealer in Hope – The Last Battles
A Dealer in Hope – The Last Battles
Unsuccessful generals attract few admirers. Amid the flyblown ineptitude that came to symbolise the Gallipoli campaign, Hunter-Weston is often presented as a pitiless driver of events; the man who exhausted and ‘broke’ the Helles army.1 Many senior Great War commanders would suffer the erosion of their reputations after the war, but in his case the damage began while the fighting was still underway. His public persona, as well as his command decisions, fuelled this process. He was aware that he faced an able opponent, who had the advantage of superior communications by land and sea. For an advocate of the psychological battlefield, this was a painful realisation. The threat of being driven off the peninsula convinced him of two things: that a bold offensive strategy was the only viable route to survival; and that the public face of his command must be one of inspiring optimism. However, Hunter-Weston’s ebullient stance, which had served as ‘quite a good tonic’ at the outset of the expedition, appeared increasingly out of touch as his assault on Achi Baba continued to falter.2
After less than month on the peninsula, Hunter-Weston was promoted to Corps Commander and temporary Lieutenant-General, formally recognising the authority that he had already accumulated. He was delighted to be ← 177 | 178 → ‘“a big bug” & yet feeling so entirely unlike a big bug & feeling thoroughly capable of filing the position …’3...
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