Baker, Mark: The myth of Keith Murdoch’s Gallipoli letter

Baker, Mark

The myth of Keith Murdoch’s Gallipoli letter‘, Inside Story, 26 July 2016

Extract from the author’s new book, Phillip Schuler: The Remarkable Life of One of Australia’s Greatest War Correspondents, just published. A brief biographical note on Schuler is here and Baker talks about him here. Baker has been working on Schuler for a long time.

PS9781760111656The extract concentrates particularly on Murdoch’s appearance before the Dardanelles Commission, an inquiry into the Gallipoli disaster. Schuler was also to be called as a witness (on the urging of Sir Ian Hamilton, who expected him to balance Murdoch’s unfavourable view) but this did not happen. Hamilton also tried to have the original Ashmead-Bartlett letter tabled at the Commission, as well as Murdoch’s embellished one, but neither letter was tabled.

Murdoch had become powerful in London by early 1917 but was given a rough time by the Commission, which focused on his limited knowledge and expertise in relation to the matters covered in his letter. He admitted his letter was based primarily on impressions gained during his four or five days at Gallipoli. High Commissioner Andrew Fisher, who was present, asked a series of questions which enabled Murdoch to put himself in a more favourable light but the Commission pursued him hard on other issues. Murdoch admitted he had coloured the letter to try to ensure that Birdwood did not replace Hamilton and persist with the campaign.

Peter Cochrane writes about Tom Roberts’s biography of Keith Murdoch. There was a television program on Keith Murdoch, featuring Rupert Murdoch and advised by Roberts, although the program may have to be hunted for (possibly on video).

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