HC Deb 22 November 1917 vol 99 cc1520-6

Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER, pursuant to the Order of the House, of the 12th February, proposed the Question, " That this House do now Adjourn."


The great international Bolos are the members of the Court of Athens. The protectors of those Bolos are the men who sit on the Treasury Bench as members of the Government. Those words I wish to go out from this House till they sink into the minds of the public and produce there a salutary reaction. I advance them thus early, because if I am counted out to-night the public will know that the Government does not dare face that accusation.


Except one of them.


If I am not counted out, I will proceed to develop my theme and establish the truth of what I say. On the 21st January, 1916, a compact was entered into between the Kaiser on the one hand and King Constantine of Greece on the other. It was a solemn compact, drawn up in set terms, by which on his part the King of Greece agreed that the armies of Greece would not at any time be used to support the cause of the Allies, and that he himself would remain faithful to his friendship for the Kaiser; and, on the other side, that the Kaiser would support him by force of arms when necessary. On the 5th May, 1916, matters had so far progressed that General Mackensen, the great general of the Germans, who is now the leading spirit of this immense drive in Italy, was, at the instigation of the Kaiser and with the connivance and support of the King of Greece, examining minutely the whole of the military situation in the Balkans, and especially in Greece, to know in what way the Grecian forces could co-operate with the forces of Germany for the destruction of the Allies.

On the 23rd June of the same year Prince Nicholas and Prince Andrew of Greece came on a mission to this country—a mission embracing Russia and this country. That was no ordinary visit of distinguished strangers. That was a visit which had been arranged minutely, carefully, in the Court of Berlin by the Kaiser himself, and with the exultant approval of the German Chancellor. In speaking thus, I might quote—I will produce all the documents, if necessary—from two Parisian papers, both of a warlike tendency, one the "Echo de Paris," and the other " L'Homme Euchainé," the organ of no less a man than the present Prime Minister of France. According to these organs, the Greek Minister at Berlin, M. Thiotokis, who was entirely friendly to the German nation even as against his own country, communicated to King Constantine this message, that the mission had been carefully prepared, that the German Chancellor was highly delighted, and gave his warmest approval to the mission. The object of this mission was to explain to the sovereigns of Russia and England the policy of King Constantine, and to make them understand that the policy pursued by their Governments tended to the undermining of the dynasty and would accomplish no useful purpose.

We have heard a great deal during these days of the mischievous activities of

Boloism. I ask seriously whether, in the whole round of recent history, you could find one example more dangerous or more perfidious than the activities of these two Princes, coming direct as emissaries from the German Court, knowing the secrets of the German Court, but preserving those secrets, and giving counsel to the Allied countries of Russia and England, not in any friendly or neutral way, but with the determination to press home on the Courts of these countries the views of the German Kaiser and his Chancellor Bethmann-Holl-weg. The Bolos were not regarded with suspicion or harried or persecuted; they were received in this country with open arms; their mission was facilitated, and having left this country when they had access to many secrets denied to citizens of this country.


To Members of this, House—


These emissaries of the enemy went straight to Berlin, were received with Royal honours, and were no doubt responsible for the defeat of the designs of the Allies. That brings us down to the 23rd June, 1916. On the 2nd December, in the same year, the Consort of King Constantine, who is, I believe, a sister of the German Kaiser, was screaming for an attack on the Allies, with the co-operation of the Greek Forces. There is something about this lady which really compels my admiration. She reminds me of what Napoleon said of the Duchesse d'Angoulême—that she was the only man, in the family. She was a woman of action;. she knew the time had come to strike, and therefore from her palace she was screaming for action to be taken. On the 2nd December, Theotokis, the infidel representative of Greece at the Court of Berlin, was—three weeks later—calling out for an attack, but the time was evidently thought to be inopportune. On the 5th January this year we have the demand for the destruction of all the Greek guns that could be used on the side of the Allies. On the 10th January of this year we find Queen Sophia again screaming with rage and despair at the opportunity missed to strike, and crying about the state of Greece, which had been brought about by the blockade on the part of the Allies, and using this phrase, which deserves to become historic, in the description of the Allies, when she called them " infamous swine." Perhaps the words, severe as they are, had been suggested to her by the manner in which the representatives of the Allies had grovelled at her feet. Here, again, is a pleasant touch which gives me a certain sympathy with the lady. Not being a frequenter of Courts, I had, in my own imagination, placed these people so high that I was disinclined to think that they used words that were familar here; I had believed that they spoke in the high diplomatic terms that we are accustomed to read in Blue Books and diplomatic papers. There is that "touch of Nature that makes the whole world kin " in this description where she designated the Allies as " infamous swine."

Remember that in this brief narration I have taken you over twelve months of recent Grecian history. Remember that many of these facts which have now been divulged were patent to Members of this House, and that some Members of this House endeavoured to force them upon the attention of the representatives of the Government who held the very destiny of this country in their hands. They, however, remained deaf to the warnings or insolent to the demand that they should hear. What was their reply; and what was the communication of their representative in Athens during all this time? There was a Minister there. Was he alone in all the world blind to the machinations of Constantine, or did he report them to his Government? He did report them, somewhat tardily, to his Government, and even then that Government was blind and deaf. I want to say this, and I want that it should go forth, not only in this country but throughout all the Dominions, that this terrible disaster to Italy had its roots in this inaction, an inaction so extraordinary, and of which the evil effects could not be paralleled by the worst example of perfidy. I will say to this House; I will say to the men of this country, and I will say to the women of this country who have sent their sons and husbands to fight the battle of freedom, that the chances of this country have been jeopardised, and in part thrown away, because in the Balkans the Allies were not fighting the battle of freedom which they blazon on their banners. They were using their force and their diplomacy not to fight and win, but to conserve this enemy dynasty which has dealt to their cause the deepest and perhaps the most irreparable blow during these whole three years of war.

There is no representative of the Government to answer. Why? Because no answer can be given, and they know it. In any other country in the world if such an act of negligence were brought home to the representative of the Government that representative would go. Or if the Government showed any inclination to defend him that Government would go. It is a wrong and a mischievous system that a man on whose shoulders rests the responsibility for this terrible blunder, worse than many crimes, should still sit there perhaps to blunder again in the same way—to throw away what chances still remain of the victory of the Allies in this terrible War. We have become accustomed to the terrible toll of death. I am not speaking of the waste of treasure. Let me picture one individual soldier, a young man as the world may call him, the hope and pride of his father and mother, of his brothers and his sisters. He goes forth like a hero, willing to give all that a man can give; his life itself, for the cause of his country, for the whole ideal which the Allies have set upon their flags. That man is stricken down by an enemy bullet in Serbia. His blood is ebbing fast away, his lips are growing pale, his eyes are glaring. He thinks of his home, he thinks of the misery his death will cause. He knows that his people will be uplifted by the thought that he died for a great cause. if in the dying moments of that hero it could be whispered in his ear, " No, you have not died for a great cause, you have not died in defence of your country, you have not died for democracy, you have died to save a dynasty, that dynasty the representative of the worst enemies of your country." The responsibility of having to hear those words, and know that they are true rests with the men who are still guiding the destinies of this country, and having thrown away its chances can say, " We have lost the War in the Balkans, but we have saved the dynasty of an enemy."


I hoped someone else would have risen from the opposite benches. There are two members of the Government here, both admirably qualified to speak on this or any other subject. In fact, I would consider them both as to ability, to honesty, and to eloquence superior to the great majority of their colleagues. But they have thought it well to-night to hide their talents under a bushel, and they have not replied to the eloquent and moving speech that, we heard. The House ought to congratulate my hon. Friend that at the third time of asking the Government has not put someone up to count him out. We may also congratulate him that they have not attempted to reply, because no adequate defence of the Government on Greek diplomacy and this Greek fiasco could have been attempted with success. Where no defence was possible I am sure that it was the wisest course to leave the matter where it was. I should like to pay my tribute to the most powerful indictment and the very moving appeal to which we have just listened. But that is not the whole story of the incapacity and weakness of our diplomacy in the Balkans, or even of our diplomacy in Greece. Let it be remembered—and I am sure that my hon. Friend will excuse my reminding him—that he began his story in January, 1916. Let him go back to a year earlier. In January, 1915, we could have had Constantine on our side. If you have got a man who is unreliable and treacherous by nature, let us have him on our side rather than leave him to do what he likes against us as a neutral. If our policy at the beginning of 1915 had been straightforward, sensible, consistent, and courageous, and had not been dominated by Russian diplomacy and by that false line of foreign policy for which we have greatly, perhaps chiefly, to blame Lord Hardinge, this miserable story of Constantine's treachery, and of his collapse, followed by the appointment of his son as successor, would not have occurred. I will not develop the story at this late hour, but I would like to say how much we who love the truth, and who are upholders of consistent policy, and who desire to get from the Government more information than they naturally care to give, have to thank the hon. Member for his consistency in this matter and his eloquent words to-night.

Adjourned accordingly at Twenty-three minutes after Eleven o'clock till Tomorrow, pursuant to the Resolution of the Rouse of this day.