The Surrender of Kut

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

The Surrender of Kut is a letter written by Arthur Conan Doyle first published in The Daily Chronicle on 2 may 1916.


The Surrender of Kut

Sir, — It is to be hoped that the surrender at Kut will be viewed with a proper sense of proportion by the public. The number of men involved is probably far less than a single day's losses for the Germans in an active day upon the Verdun front. They were not wasted, but have done their bit in the general strategy of the war. Their presence has attracted an ever increasing number of the Turks, and thus helped to ease the pressure both upon Egypt and upon the Russians. It is to be expected that the continued presence of General Lake's army to the south of Bagdad will still have this effect.

There is nothing more pernicious than the clamour which breaks out when a bold venture has been made and has failed. Such criticism if taken seriously would kill all initiative and would condemn some of the most brilliant feats in history. What would some of our squealers have said to Napoleon's venture when, with the British holding the seas, he took an army from Marseilles to Egypt? Or to take a more recent example what would they have said to the British Cavalry which, after Tel-el-Kebir pushed on unsupported to Cairo? These are the risks of war, and to discourage them by crying out when they miscarry is to strike at the very roots of successful soldiering. We have failed at Gallipoli, but it was a fair risk and well worth taking. We have failed for the moment at Bagdad. Let us try and try again until the day comes when we do not fail. There lies the road to victory.

But, above all, let us keep united. These perpetual squabbles make a man's heart sick. Can anybody be so mad as to suppose that the Cabinet does not want to win the war? Or can anybody deny that they are of a high average order of intellect and character, with full knowledge of the facts, and with the best expert advice to guide them? Or, again, can anybody suggest any other Government, save a coalition, which would not breed instant internal trouble? Since all these things are obviously true, what is the sense of all this captious and bitter criticism? That suggestions should be offered or methods recommended is reasonable enough. But there are papers and there are public men whose utterances are sheer vituperation. What can be gained by that? Our Government is fighting the German Government. In what possible way can it be helpful that their own people should snipe at them while they fight.

There was a time when a bulldog was our national type. So it is still when you get down to the real nation, for the nation, though liable to partial and temporary deception, is as sound as ever it was. But if we were to judge it by some of its Press and some of its public men we should have to drop the bulldog, and take a basketful of puppies, all whining and yelping together, as a more appropriate national symbol. But this is surely all on the surface. Let us bite hard, hang on, and keep silent. That was the way of our fathers, and it lies deep in our blood.

Portman Lodge, Bournemouth, April 29, 1916