Guide The Power of the Pen: The Politics, Nationalism, and Influence of Sir John Willison

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Life Studies. Wilson was displeased at the poor state of air support but impressed by the early artillery sound-ranging device which he was shown. Some of Wilson's artillery was moved down to the Somme. Wilson continued to work on air-artillery coordination and mining, but rejected a proposal to dig jumping-off trenches into No Mans Land, as this would give away the attack. In reply Wilson stressed the inexperience of the British Army. On his visit Lloyd George had been told falsely that Wilson had not wanted to counterattack in May.

Wilson then had the 63rd and 9th Divisions taken away, then 10 October heard his whole Corps was to be transferred to Gough 's Reserve Army, a prospect which did not please him.

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Edmonds later wrote that Wilson's preparations had laid the foundations for the successful capture of Vimy Ridge in April Wilson thought that "to slog on at one spot" on the Somme was "dreadfully lacking in imagination" and would have preferred a joint offensive by Russia, Italy and Romania in Spring to draw off 15 or 20 German divisions, allowing the BEF to "completely smash the Boch line". Summoned to see Lloyd George 13 November and asked if Britain could still hope to defeat Germany, Wilson advised him that she could , provided Haig were given enough men to fight "two Sommes at once", but that in reality Haig should be firmly told how many men he was to receive and told to plan accordingly.

He thought at the end of that both sides were claiming victory from that year's fighting, but victory "inclined to us", and that Germany might be driven to sue for peace in Lloyd George's accession to the Premiership December restarted Wilson's career.

Despite the growing alliance between Wilson and the Prime Minister, Wilson was a "Westerner" and agreed with Robertson that British heavy guns should not be sent to Italy or Salonika. Lloyd George wanted Russia persuaded to make the maximum possible effort, a necessity again stressed at the second Chantilly Conference in December Wilson was sent as Senior Military Representative Robertson had refused to go on a British mission to Russia in January delayed from November , the object of which was to keep the Russians holding down at least the forces now opposite them, to boost Russian morale and see what equipment they needed with a view to coordinating attacks.

The party of 50 included British led by Milner and including a banker and two munitions experts , French led by de Castelnau and Italian delegations. The War Office briefing advised that Russia was close to revolution. Even senior Russian officials were talking openly of assassinating the Tsar or perhaps just the Tsarina. He toured Petrograd, Moscow where he was concerned at the food shortages and Riga, which he predicted the "Boches" would never capture they would do so in late , and thought that even if Tsar and Tsarina were assassinated — the Tsar was toppled a few weeks after he left — Russia would not make a separate peace.

His official report 3 March said that Russia would remain in the war and that they would solve their "administrative chaos".

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However, many other observers at the time, e. During the Calais Affair whilst Wilson was away in Russia Lloyd George had attempted to sideline Haig, whilst Nivelle, the French Commander-in-Chief, would exercise operational command of the British Forces, through a British staff officer — Wilson was probably earmarked for this job. This plan fell through after Haig and Robertson threatened resignation. Wilson confessed to Derby that he did not get on with Haig or Robertson and told Robertson he wanted to return to commanding a corps. Hankey brokered an agreement whereby Haig would be subordinate to Nivelle only for the duration of the coming offensive and Wilson would do the liaison job but reporting to Haig.

Haig asked him to accept "as a favour", but Robertson was "staggered" by Wilson demanding and getting a formal invitation from Haig, Nivelle and the War Cabinet, and a clear statement of his own and Haig's status. Nivelle came to Wilson's London house to beg him to accept.


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Wilson was appointed Chief of British Mission to the French Army on 17 March, with a promotion to permanent lieutenant-general which Robertson had blocked in November Gough wrote to Stamfordham i. However, the appointment was welcomed by Curzon , and the King and Esher also urged Haig and Robertson to accept the deal. Wilson did not agree with this, although the alternatives were whirlwind attacks like those Nivelle had launched at Verdun in late or — Wilson's preference — a major attritional offensive like the Somme but "with intelligence". He urged "a middle course of big operations on long fronts for limited objectives" which would cause "maximum of damage to the enemy with a minimum of loss to ourselves" and keep the Germans "in a state of constant tension and anxiety".

Robertson suggested once again that Wilson should return to commanding a corps, but Foch thought this a poor use of his talents. Haig's diary states that Painleve had told Lloyd George Wilson was no longer persona grata with the French government. Wilson returned to London to sound out opinion about resigning and nobody tried to dissuade him.

Whilst he was in London Lloyd George asked him to brief the War Cabinet individually then collectively with his advice that Britain try for some military or diplomatic success to drive Turkey or Bulgaria out of the war. Wilson then took a tour of the French line all the way down to the Swiss frontier, and was concerned that revolution seemed a possibility in France.

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He attempted to get a final interview with Painleve but left after being kept waiting in a lobby with "a pronounced whore". He had a meeting with Haig, who was encouraged by the recent success at Messines , and agreed with Haig's plan for a major offensive in Flanders, although he cautioned that it should only continue up until the time of the mud.

Wilson contemplated standing for Parliament. Esher and Duncannon proposed forming a new "National" party of 20—30 MPs, which would include David Davies who had been on the mission to Russia. The new party's policies would include more vigorous prosecution of the war — Wilson urged Irish conscription — and the detachment of Turkey and Bulgaria. His brother Jemmy proposed getting him an Ulster seat, and thought that the prospect of Wilson as an MP would annoy Robertson who told Wilson that there was no army job for him in Britain , but the Irish Unionist leader Carson thought an English seat more sensible.

Bonar Law was dismissive of Wilson's hopes that, like J. Smuts , he might be invited to join the War Policy Committee, and also poured cold water on the idea of Wilson becoming an MP. Wilson did not agree with Milner's suggestion that he succeed Sarrail as Commander-in-Chief at Salonika. Brock Millman argued that the threat to stand for Parliament was blackmail to get a military job out of Lloyd George, but Keith Jeffery rejects this, arguing that Wilson would have been no threat as a new MP but as a military adviser was a useful rival to Robertson, whom by July French was telling Wilson Lloyd George wanted to remove.

With the Third Battle of Ypres , to which the War Cabinet had reluctantly agreed on condition that it did not degenerate into a long-drawn out fight like the Somme, already bogged down in unseasonably early wet weather, French 14 August told Riddell managing director of the News of the World , and likely to pass on French's views to Lloyd George that Henry Wilson's talents were being wasted, and that the government was not ascertaining "the views of our leading soldiers".

Wilson thought "ridiculous and unworkable" a suggestion by Lloyd George that all Robertson's plans be submitted to a committee of French, Wilson and one other, and over lunch with French and Lloyd George on 23 August suggested an inter-Allied body of three Prime Ministers and three soldiers be set up over all the national Staffs.