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Lt-Commander Kenworthy’s Views about Asia Minor, August 1922

Joseph Kenworthy, 10th Baron Strabolgi, (1886-1953) temporarily served in the Plans Division of the Admiralty War Staff during the Great War (World War I). He wrote many books mainly concerned with naval issues and served as a member of the Liberal and Labor parties in the House of Commons. Kenworthy was a fierce opponent of Prime Minister Lloyd George and attacked the latter’s speech of August 4, 1922 regarding Britain’s Near Eastern policy. An analysis of his speech will follow highlighting his anti-Greek position.

Kenworthy stated that “Greece was not our Ally in the War. Greece waited till the War was over.” This quote is incorrect as Greece remained neutral under King Constantine whereas Eleftherios Venizelos wanted to join the Anglo-French during World War I. When Constantine was dethroned in June 1917, Venizelos reunited Greece and declared war on the Central Powers in July 1917. Greek troops played a very important role on the Macedonian front forcing the Bulgarians to surrender in September 1918.

He mentioned that an inter-allied commission of inquiry was created to investigate what happened on the day of the Greek landing in Smyrna regarding “the excesses and the outrages that were committed there.” This aroused thousands of Turks to join Mustapha Kemal’s nationalist movement. Kenworthy outlined that some considered Kemal as a “rebel general [and a] great national hero of Turkey and is looked upon as the wielder of the Sword of the Faithful.” It is clear that Kenworthy had considerable sympathy for the Kemalists.

The Armenians received praise, however, and he considered them as allies compared to the Greeks. Kenworthy noted that the Armenians “stood by us in the [Great] War and rose against their Turkish masters and embarrassed the Turkish armies. That is why they were massacred.” There is some truth to this statement of Armenians standing by the allies but allied pledges during World War I however, were never executed and the Armenians were left to fend for themselves against the Kemalist and Bolshevik armies in December 1920. The nascent Armenian Republic came under Bolshevik control and Armenia ceded territory to the Kemalists under the Treaty of Alexandropol. Kenworthy hoped the Turks would guarantee minority rights to the Armenians living in Turkey and would “look after these people” without any retribution. He said it was equally important that “we will give them a fair deal” in order for Britain to fulfil its pledge to the Armenians. Britain wanted the creation of an Armenian homeland on the Turkish soil, something which Ismet Pasha strongly objected to at the Lausanne Conference of 1922-23.

Kenworthy believed that Lloyd George would attempt to convince fellow parliamentarians that the continued presence of the Greek army in Asia Minor was essential for the protection to the Asia Minor Greeks against Turkish reprisals. He alludes to the view that the Greeks of Pontus and Smyrna lived under Turkish rule for 500 years and that they became wealthy, achieved power, and gained influence in their communities. Kenworthy blamed “the intrigues of the Imperialists in Athens, with the sympathy, open or covert, of the right hon. Gentleman [Lloyd George], which led them astray.” He blamed the Greek governments and Lloyd George for the Smyrna landing and the presence of the Greek army in Asia Minor. Kenworthy also notes that the Greeks did very well economically and financially under Ottoman rule.

In his speech, he mentioned the Franco-Kemalist agreement of October 1921 that saw many Greeks and Armenians evacuating Cilicia in fear of their lives. He blamed the propagandists for this evacuation. The evacuees fled because they knew that they could face Turkish reprisals as memories of massacres of the first world war still lingered in their minds. Notwithstanding, the Greeks and Turks were offered armistice terms by the allies in March 1922 in Paris to end the Greek-Turkish war and for the withdrawal of the Greek army from Asia Minor. Kenworthy stated that “the Greeks accepted and the Turks refused” the allied terms.

He also raised the issue of the Greek attempt to occupy Constantinople in July 1922 which will be described later below. Meanwhile, Kenworthy mentioned that Constantinople was under British occupation at great expense for the British taxpayer. A Frenchman in Paris informed him that any Englishmen who traveled beyond the protection of British guns from Constantinople risked having “their throats cut.” It is conceivable that Lloyd George’s Near Eastern policy impacted British trade and aroused Turkish hostility towards Britain. The French withdrawal from Cilicia was done to come to terms with Mustapha Kemal. Basically, Kenworthy believed Britain should follow the French example of rebuilding trust with Turkey and helping to restore British trade in the Near East.

It is worth noting that the Turkish Nationalist capital, Angora [Ankara] had “a representative of every Moslem community in the world. There are ambassadors from Persia, Afghanistan, and every independent Moslem State. Even the Moors in Morocco are represented.” Clearly, the Islamic world supported Kemal’s movement and his struggle against the Greeks. As Moslems, they would have seen this conflict in religious terms: Islam v. Infidel. All of them, including the Indian Moslems, hoped for a Kemalist victory which was finally achieved in September 1922.

Regarding the Greek attempt to occupy Constantinople, Kenworthy stated sarcastically that “King Constantine should be re-crowned as Emperor of Byzantium in the mosque of St. Sophia.” Such action would have certainly excited Moslem passions against the infidel, especially, the Muslims of India who considered the Aghia Sophia as a holy place of Islam. The Indian Moslems considered the Ottoman Sultan to be the Caliph of Islam. Moreover, he believed Britain should send ships from Malta to Constantinople rather than increasing its troop numbers there, the Greeks remembering from World War I that the British navy was in a strong position to threaten Piraeus.

In conclusion, Kenworthy was highly critical of Lloyd George’s support of the Greeks. It is clear from many of his statements that he favored the Kemalists and disliked the Greek army’s presence in Asia Minor. He wanted the restoration of Britain’s trading dominance in the Near East. The Armenians received his sympathy however, because they had more fully supported Britain in the Great War.

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