In the train between Paris and Marseilles, 14th March, 1915.
Neither the Asquith banquet, nor the talk at the Admiralty that midnight had persuaded me I was going to do what I am actually doing at this moment. K. had made no sign nor waved his magic baton. So I just kept as cool as I could and had a sound sleep.
Next morning, that is the 12th instant, I was working at the Horse Guards when, about 10 a.m., K. sent for me. I wondered! Opening the door I bade him good morning and walked up to his desk where he went on writing like a graven image. After a moment, he looked up and said in a matter-of-fact tone, "We are sending a military force to support the Fleet now at the Dardanelles, and you are to have Command."
Something in voice or words touched a chord in my memory. We were once more standing, K. and I, in our workroom at Pretoria, having just finished reading the night's crop of sixty or seventy wires. K. was saying to me, "You had better go out to the Western Transvaal." I asked no question, packed up my kit, ordered my train, started that night. Not another syllable was said on the subject. Uninstructed and unaccredited I left that night for the front; my outfit one A.D.C., two horses, two mules and a buggy. Whether I inspected the columns and came back and reported to K. in my capacity as his Chief Staff Officer; or, whether, making use of my rank to assume command in the field, I beat up de la Rey in his den—all this rested entirely with me.
So I made my choice and fought my fight at Roodewal, last strange battle in the West. That is K.'s way. The envoy goes forth; does his best with whatever forces he can muster and, if he loses;—well, unless he had liked the job he should not have taken it on.
At that moment K. wished me to bow, leave the room and make a start as I did some thirteen years ago. But the conditions were no longer the same. In those old Pretoria days I had known the Transvaal by heart; the number, value and disposition of the British forces; the characters of the Boer leaders; the nature of the country. But my knowledge of the Dardanelles was nil; of the Turk nil; of the strength of our own forces next to nil. Although I have met K. almost every day during the past six months, and although he has twice hinted I might be sent to Salonika; never once, to the best of my recollection, had he mentioned the word Dardanelles.