Tasker H. Bliss Papers


Notes of a Meeting Held at Mr. Lloyd George’s Residence at 23, Rue Nitot, Paris, on Saturday, May 10, 1919, at 3 p.m.

  • Present
    • United States of America
      • President Wilson
      • General Bliss
    • France
      • M. Clemenceau
    • British Empire
      • Mr. Lloyd George
      • General Wilson
      • Captain Fuller
    • Greece
      • M. Venezelos
Sir M. P. A. Hankey, K. C. B., Secretary
Prof. P. Mantoux, Interpreter

Mr. Lloyd George suggested it would be best to begin by obtaining full information as to the present situation.

The Landing of Greek Troops at Symyrna Captain Fuller said that the following warships were at present at Smyrna:—

  • British:—One light cruiser, two destroyers, two sloops: One light cruiser, one leader, four destroyers ordered to Aegean:
  • French:—One battlesnip, one cruiser: One battleship is due to arrive on May 18th.
  • Greek:—One battleship, one cruiser, one destroyer.
  • Italian:—One battleship, six small vessels.

Admiral Kakoulides in Kilkis is proceeding to Constantinople from Black Sea to confer with Commander-in-Chief. Transports for from 12,000 to 14,000 men were assembling at Kavalla. They had left Athens, but their arrival at Kavalla had not yet been reported. More transports were being sent from Athens to convoy the material, but the date of their departure had not yet been reported.

M. Venezelos said that 14,000 Greek troops were available at Kavalla. He hoped that the whole of the transports would arrive at Kavalla this evening. They would then commence to embark.

Captain Fuller said that their embarkation should occupy from 24 to 36 hours. He agreed with Mr. Lloyd George that the whole force should be embarked by Monday evening.

Mr. Lloyd George asked how long the material would take to embark? There was no time to lose.

General Bliss thought that 48 hours would be enough for the embarkation of the material, if, as he understood, there were no horses.

[Page 554]

M. Venezelos suggested that if the matter was urgent the troops could be embarked and the transports could sail without waiting for the impedimenta. This was only a case of the occupation of a town and not of big military movements.

General Wilson thought that sufficient transport could be requisitioned in Smyrna for the purpose of distributing the food.

Captain Fuller said that the forts were on the hills outside the town.

M. Venezelos, in reply to President Wilson, said that not more than 24 hour’s would be required for the voyage from Kavalla to Smyrna.

Mr. Lloyd George asked if, when the Turks were told that Smyrna would be occupied, they would be told that the forts were to be handed over? He believed that the French had a considerable landing party of blue-jackets or marines on board their ships. The Turks would probably raise less objection to the surrender of the forts to the French or the British than to the Greeks.

M. Clemenceau said he did not mind whether it was the French or the British.

Mr. Lloyd George said he did not either.

President Wilson asked if there was not a danger from the lack of unity of command?

Captain Fuller said that the whole of the transport and escort and landing operations would be under the supreme command of Admiral Calthorpe, who was the Allied Commander-in-Chief in that part of the Mediterranean.

M. Clemenceau said that the Greek troops were under their oAvn command.

Mr. Lloyd George said that orders should be given for the forts to be handed over to the Greek troops when they had arrived.

President Wilson said he understood it had been agreed that both the Turks and Italians were to be informed just before the landing. The Allied representatives should be instructed to inform both by Monday night.

Mr. Lloyd George said that the Italians ought to be told in Paris.

General Wilson suggested that Admiral Calthorpe should be instructed to inform the Turks that the forts were to be handed over under the terms of the armistice. They should be told that the forts were to be handed over to Allied troops, for, if they were not told they would have a legitimate right to resist.

General Bliss asked what objection there was to warning both the Turks and the Italians in time to ascertain their attitude? The chance of a conflict was much greater if they had no warning. Not to warn them was to invite disaster.

[Page 555]

Mr. Lloyd George said that there was no fear of resistance by the Italians. The danger was that the Italians would egg the Turks on to fight. He asked M. Venezelos’ view.

M. Venezelos said he disagreed with General Bliss. If the Italians were told beforehand they would tell the Turks. He advised that the Turks should be told only 12 hours before the landing. Admiral Calthorpe would direct the movements of the transports, and he would know at what moment to make the communication.

General Wilson suggested that the Italians would probably insist on joining in the landing as allies.

General Bliss pointed out that the Italians could not put many men ashore.

General Wilson pointed out they could bring up plenty of troops from Rhodes.

President Wilson said he foreshadowed a difficulty if the British Admiral went to Smyrna, having reached an understanding only with the Greek Commander. If the Italian Commander had no instructions to cooperate, an awkward situation would arise. The Italian Commander would have received no instructions to take orders from Admiral Calthorpe.

Captain Fuller pointed out that Admiral Calthorpe was Commander-in-Chief of the Allied forces in the Eastern Mediterranean. Before giving any order to the Italians he would, of course, have to consult the Italian commander.

President Wilson said that we did not want the Italians to land their troops.

General Wilson said it would be very awkward if the Italians had a battalion on the spot and wanted to land. Was our Admiral to be instructed to forbid it?

Captain Fuller pointed out that Admiral Calthorpe would very likely remain at Constantinople and delegate the command to the French Admiral.

Mr. Lloyd George said in that case the French Admiral would have command over the Italians as well as the other allied forces.

President Wilson pointed out that, in that event, the Italians would ask why they were not to cooperate. They would also ask why the forts were to be handed to the Greeks.

General Bliss anticipated that, in the absence of any definite instructions, the Italian Admiral would say to himself that he did not want to lose the trick, and he would anticipate trouble with his own government if he did not take part in the landing. If, however, he knew beforehand, there would be no friction. Without instructions he felt sure the Italian Admiral would insist on participating in the landing.

[Page 556]

President Wilson said that in his place he would certainly do so.

Mr. Lloyd George remarked that if the Italians were informed on Monday their Admiral would know before Tuesday, and with the greatest expedition a landing could not take place before that day.

M. Venezelos urged the importance of Admiral Calthorpe going specially to Smyrna as Commander-in-Chief of the Allies in the Aegean. The Commander of the Italian ships would then never think of opposing him unless he had instructions from his own government. He believed that if the Italians were notified only some hours beforehand all would go well, on condition that the French occupied the forts.

President Wilson agreed that Admiral Calthorpe’s personal authority would not be questionable, but if he deputed his authority to someone else, it was more doubtful.

Mr. Lloyd George said that Admiral Calthorpe, in that case, ought to be told to go to Smyrna.

Captain Fuller undertook to do this.

Mr. Lloyd George recalled, however, that it was also important that Admiral Calthorpe should inform the Turks of what was taking place. Should he, he asked, do this by deputy?

M. Venezelos said he had received a despatch from the Greek representative at Constantinople, who had discussed the whole matter with Admiral Calthorpe, who had told him that he wanted to go to Smyrna, but that this was difficult owing to the absence of Admiral Seymour in the Black Sea, which prevented him from leaving.

Captain Fuller said that it had not been possible to release the British ships from the Black Sea to go to Smyrna, consequently Admiral Seymour was detained. In reply to Mr. Lloyd George he said that perhaps Admiral Seymour could be brought down to Constantinople, but it would take three days for him to come from the Crimea.

Mr. Lloyd George considered there was a great deal to be said for Admiral Calthorpe being at Smyrna. He agreed with M. Venezelos that in that case the Italians were much less likely to make difficulties.

M. Venezelos and M. Clemenceau agreed.

General Wilson expressed doubts as to whether 12 hours was a long enough warning to the Turkish Government. They did not function very rapidly and the Commanders of the forts might not have received warning to hand over. In this case they would be justified in resisting. The difficulty might be got over by an order issued locally.

General Bliss was inclined to favour this.

Mr. Lloyd George asked whether they would obey an order given locally under the armistice?

M. Venezelos suggested that the Turks should be asked to surrender the forts to the allied forces under the terms of the armistice [Page 557] 36 hours before the operation took place. 24 hours later they should be informed that allied troops were about to arrive.

Captain Fuller said that the landing party would be a French one. In reply to President Wilson he said he believed there were two forts.

General Wilson expressed doubts as to whether the size of the landing party was sufficient to deal with two forts.

Captain Fuller said there was little information about the forts.

(At this point there was considerable discussion about the forts.)

Captain Fuller read a draft of the instructions which he understood he was to send to the Admiralty for transmission to Admiral Calthorpe.

(These instructions were slightly modified during the discussion, but in their final form are recorded at the end of these Notes.)

(President Wilson withdrew, and shortly after Admiral de Bon, who had been summoned by telephone, arrived.)

Professor Mantoux, at M. Clemenceau’s request, explained the situation to Admiral de Bon.

M. Clemenceau asked if the Turks could be warned without warning the Italians also?

Mr. Lloyd George said that if the Italians were informed on Monday they would communicate it to the Turks.

M. Venezelos suggested that the Turks ought to be informed in regard to the forts on Monday afternoon.

Admiral de Bon pointed out that Admiral Amet was at Constantinople.

Mr. Lloyd George said that in this case it would be unnecessary to recall Admiral Seymour from the Crimea. He asked what was the strength of the French landing party available.

Admiral de Bon said it was from 300 to 400 men.

Mr. Lloyd George suggested that this was enough unless the Turks intended to fight. If they should fight then a much larger number would not be sufficient.

General Wilson asked whether the Italians in Paris would be informed that no Italian troops were to be landed?

Mr. Lloyd George said that this difficulty should be surmounted by telling Admiral Calthorpe that the landing party was to consist entirely of French forces so as to avoid mixing up nationalities.

The following is a summary of the decisions reached:—

At the Meeting of the Supreme Council of the Allied and Associated Powers on Monday afternoon the Italian representatives should be informed of the action to be taken, and should be asked to issue instructions to place their Senior Naval Officer at Smyrna under Admiral Calthorpe’s orders:
Captain Fuller should make a communication on the following points to the British Admiralty, in order that instructions might be given to Admiral Calthorpe:— [Page 558]
That, in view of the presence of Italian ships at Smyrna, it was very desirable that Admiral Calthorpe should be at Smyrna just prior to and during the operations:
That it was presumed that the Greek troops would arrive at Smyrna not before Wednesday morning, May 14th:
That the Italian representatives would be informed on Monday afternoon, as stated above:
That Admiral Calthorpe should arrange with Admiral Amet at Constantinople to make the following communications to the Turks:—
Thirty-six hours before the Greek troops are due to land at Smyrna, the Turks at Constantinople to be informed that the forts at Smyrna are to be handed over to allied detachments:
Twelve hours before the Greek troops are due to land at Smyrna, the Turks at Constantinople should be informed that allied troops will be landed at Smyrna in accordance with the armistice terms, and that these movements have been decided on in view of reported disorders in the neighbourhood of Smyrna:
Admiral Calthorpe should also be informed that the forts will eventually be turned over to the Greek troops:
Admiral Calthorpe should be instructed to arrange that no men are to be landed from Italian ships, nor should any British parties be landed. The landing parties for taking over the forts should be entirely French, thus avoiding the mixing up of nationalities:
Admiral Calthorpe should, as soon as possible, report the date and time at which transports would leave Kavalla, and the date and time of their expected arrival at Smyrna, so that, if they are due at Smyrna later than Wednesday morning, the Supreme Council can adjust the time for informing the Italians in Paris to correspond.

(Note:—A communication in the above sense has been sent to the Admiralty, London, and Admiral de Bon is instructing Admiral Amet to follow Admiral Calthorpe’s directions in this operation.)

Villa Majestic, Paris, May 10, 1919.