WORLD WAR ONE – KITCHENER and McKENNA. Autograph letter signed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Reginald McKenna, to Lord Kitchener, 1915
Lot 273
WORLD WAR ONE – KITCHENER and McKENNA. Autograph letter signed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Reginald McKenna, to Lord Kitchener, 1915
£400 - 600
US$ 660 - 990
Lot Details
WORLD WAR ONE – KITCHENER and McKENNA
Autograph letter signed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Reginald McKenna, to Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State for War, calculating the number of recruits that will be needed to withstand the attrition rate on the Western Front: "The calculation which I made two or three weeks ago was as follows: Total casualties (i.e. casualties of all kinds) take place at the rate of 1 in 15 per month of all the men in France. Among casualties approximately 1/5th are killed, 1/5th are missing, and 3/5ths are wounded. Of the wounded 2/5ths do not return to the Army. The irrecoverable wastage is therefore 1/5+1/5+2/5 of 3/5 = 16/25 or 64 per cent. The figures I should be glad to have would be: (1) The rate of recruiting necessary to supply wastage and to furnish a total of 2,600,000 men at home and abroad in April (2) The rate of recruiting necessary to maintain 1,400,000 men in the field until the end of December 1916 making due allowance for wastage", 4 pages, marked at head "5526", on headed Treasury paper, paper-clip stain and some dust-staining, 8vo, Treasury Chambers, Whitehall, 23 July 1915

Footnotes


  • 'RECRUITING NECESSARY TO SUPPLY WASTAGE AND TO FURNISH A TOTAL OF 2,600,000 MEN': the Chancellor of the Exchequer calculates for the benefit of Lord Kitchener the ratio of killing to recruitment on the Western Front during the Great War, and how many millions of men it is necessary to recruit in order to make up for the 64 per cent "irrecoverable wastage" on the Western Front.

    Kitchener had been appointed Secretary of State for War two days after its outbreak: 'Kitchener's initial response to the war was prescient. The British government had entered it expecting to fight in a limited fashion and to make a primarily naval and financial contribution, otherwise carrying on with 'business as usual'. Further, the general military consensus was that the war would be short, decided by early decisive battles, and 'over by Christmas'. Kitchener, though accepting the continental strategy, rejected all these assumptions. He believed the war would be long—three years—and that Britain would have to raise a continental-scale army; the cabinet accepted. Thus Kitchener, as David French has written, 'was responsible for one of the most complete and far-reaching reversals of policy of the whole war ... one of the most important and far-reaching decisions taken by the British throughout the war'... Agreeing with his cabinet colleagues that conscription was then impractical and unnecessary, he appealed for volunteers. The response was massive' (Keith Neilson, ODNB).

    This opposition to conscription was shared by his correspondent, Reginald McKenna, Chancellor of the Exchequer: 'In late 1915 McKenna and most of his Liberal cabinet colleagues strenuously fought demands for military conscription by Lloyd George and the Conservative ministers. In contrast to the other Liberal ministers, who simply denounced conscription as violating Liberal principles, McKenna and the Board of Trade president, Walter Runciman, asserted that it would ruin the economy, and possibly lose the war, by stripping British industry of manpower. McKenna's conviction that Germany would eventually be defeated by the British naval blockade ran counter to the position of Lloyd George and the War Office that a large British army was needed to sustain France and Russia in the war. McKenna threatened resignation, but stayed on after conscription was adopted' (D. M. Cregier, ODNB).
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