East, the situation in Macedonia is serious and sea communications between England and the East are difficult and precarious. The Chief of the Imperial General Staff is, for the above reasons, very strongly against embarking on another campaign, notwithstanding the political arguments to the contrary.
The political view, which was laid before the War Cabinet by Lord Curzon and Mr. Chamberlain, is that we cannot allow the Sherif to be overwhelmed; one small State after another that has, willingly or unwillingly, espoused the cause of the Allies has been shattered; it is particularly important not to allow the downfall of the Sherif, as the effect on our prestige throughout the East would be disastrous; if the cause of the Sherif is allowed to collapse, the probable result will be still larger demands on our military forces for dealing with the difficult situation which may be precipitated in various parts of the East.
One objection to the landing of troops in the Hedjaz is the religious difficulty that non-Moslems are not permitted in that country. Reports have been received to the effect that the native troops would dissolve if they found themselves supported by European forces, and therefore that the despatch of the force would defeat its own object. On the other hand, other reports state that in the last resort they would welcome assistance, and the Sherif himself has asked for it. The Indian Govenment are averse from sending Christian troops to the Hedjaz under any circumstances, but Mr. Chamberlain informed the War Cabinet that at the present time his Military and Political Advisers at the India Office have come to the conclusion that this is a less evil than the collapse of the Sherif.
The question is complicated by the fact that the French had offered to send infantry, but have not yet communicated what troops they proposed to send, or the date at which they could arrive.
The War Cabinet had before them a number of telegrams containing the views of the Sirdar, who holds that neither British nor French brigades should be sent to Rabegh except in the last resort, but that preparations fo landing troops in case of emergency should be made, and a brigade be sent if necessary to prevent the capture of Mecca by the Turks. Lord Curzon and Mr. Chamberlain agreed with him, provided that there was still time to prepare a proper defensive position before the Turks could arrive.
The news contained in the latest telegrams is to the effect that a movement of the Turkish troops from Medina towards the coast has been made, but it is impossible as yet to judge whether they intend to attack Yenbo or Rabegh.
- The War Cabinet decided on the following action:-
- (a.) The Foreign Office should ask the French Government whether they have decided to send a brigade, and, if so, what troops they proposed to send, and when they will be ready.
- (b.) The Chief of the Imperial General Staff should direct the General Officer Commanding the Egyptian Expeditionary Force to prepare a brigade for the use of the Sirdar if ordered.
- (c.) The Foreign Office should direct the Sirdar to take any action possible with a view to the preparation of a military position at Rabegh, in readiness for occupation by the Allied forces on their arrival.