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ASHMEAD-BARTLETT, Ellis (1881-1931)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0101 ICS 84
Held at: Institute of Commonwealth Studies
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Full title: ASHMEAD-BARTLETT, Ellis (1881-1931)
Date(s): c1880-1933
Level of description: Collection (Fonds)
Extent: 15 boxes or 0.16 cubic metres
Name of creator(s): Bartlett | Sir | Ellis Ashmead | 1849-1902 | Knight | politician
Bartlett | Ellis Ashmead | 1881-1931 | politician, journalist and author
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

Sir Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett was born in Brooklyn in 1849, of American parents. He was educated at Torquay and Christ Church, Oxford, where he graduated with 1st class honours in Law and Modern History in 1872 and was President of the Union, defeating H.H. Asquith in a famous contest. He was an examiner of the Education Department, 1874-80. He was called to the bar in 1877. In the same year he founded the Patriotic Association, which aimed to counter pro-Russian feeling in the country. His obituary in the Times (20 Jan 1902) reported that he was a fine orator and attracted large crowds - for a time his popularity "with provincial audiences" was second only to that of Lord Randolph Churchill - though his style was not so suited to the House of Commons, where he was often regarded as an eccentric figure. He was MP (Con) for Suffolk (Eye) - a seat in the gift of Lord Beaconsfield - from 1880 to 1885, and for Ecclesall Division, Sheffield, from 1885 until his death in 1902. He was Civil Lord of the Admiralty in Lord Salisbury's governments in 1885-86 and 1886-1892 and was knighted in 1892.
Throughout Sir Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett's political career his main theme was Britain's imperial role; he believed that Turkey's security was crucial to the Empire and was well known as a supporter of Turkish interests. Another long-term concern was that Swaziland should become a British, rather than Boer, territory. In 1880 he began to publish a weekly newspaper, England, which lasted until 1898 but was never very successful - its demise led to bankruptcy proceedings that were only settled in 1901. In April-May 1897 he travelled to Greece and Turkey with his son (see below) as a guest of the Sultan; he observed events in the Graeco-Turkish War, and described them in The Battlefields of Thessaly (1897).
Who Was Who 1897-1915 (London, 1935) records that he served in the South African war in 1900, but it was his son who served there in the Bedfordshire Regiment, though Sir Ellis was at one time a Lieutenant in the West Yorkshire Regiment, a militia unit. He did, however, visit South Africa and Swaziland (where he had been negotiating with rulers) in 1900-01, meeting his son by chance in Bloemfontein's main street (A/2/1/71). He died on 18 January 1902.
Publications: Shall England keep India? (W. H. Allen & Co.: London, 1886); Union or Separation ... Also an Analysis of Mr. Gladstone's "Home Rule" Bill (7ed., National Union: London, 1893); British, Natives & Boers in the Transvaal ... The appeal of the Swazi people (McCorquodale & Co.: London, 1894); The Transvaal Crisis. The case for the British-Uitlander-residents in the Transvaal (3ed., Patriotic Association: London, 1896); The Battlefields of Thessaly. With personal experiences in Turkey and Greece, etc. (John Murray: London, 1897).
Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett was the eldest son of Sir Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett (1849-1902). Born in 1881, he was educated at Marlborough College. In 1897, at the age of 17, he accompanied his father to Turkey as the guest of the Sultan and followed the Turkish army in its campaign against the Greeks. At one point the party was arrested by the Greeks as spies. Ashmead-Bartlett had begun studying to become a barrister when he left with his regiment for the South African War in February 1900. At the end of May he was taken ill, sent home and spent 7 months in hospital. By early in 1901 he was in Marseilles and Monte Carlo, supposedly for recuperation (A/3), and in May 1901 he returned to London to stay with his uncle and aunt, the Burdett-Coutts, and continued his legal studies.
It was not until 1904 that he began his career as a war correspondent by covering the siege of the Russian port of Port Arthur by the Japanese, entering the city with the victors. His account, Port Arthur: the siege and capitulation (London 1906) was well received. For the next few years he mixed a full social life in London and the country and in Paris (as described in his diaries) with periods as a war correspondent and writer and a developing political career. As Reuters' special correspondent he accompanied the French army in Morocco (1907-08), the Spanish in Morocco (1909) and the Italians in Tripoli (1911). At home he fought the safe Labour seat of Normanton in Yorkshire for the Conservatives in January 1910 and the Liberal seat of Poplar in December 1910. He was then employed by the Daily Telegraph to be its correspondent in the Balkans and he covered the two Balkan wars of 1912-1913.
At the outbreak of war in 1914 Ashmead-Bartlett returned from Bucharest to volunteer for his old regiment, but was turned down for medical reasons. He was selected by the National Press Association (Lord Burnham, proprietor of the Daily Telegraph, was the chairman) as the London Press representative on the Dardanelles Campaign, which began in March 1915. He was soon critical of the conduct of the campaign by the Allied commander Sir Ian Hamilton and the General Staff. Returning to London in June 1915 (having survived the sinking of the 'Majestic' on 26 May) he discussed the campaign with senior ministers and politicians (Asquith, Balfour, Carson, Bonar Law, Churchill, Kitchener) and presented a memorandum on the subject to the cabinet.
Ashmead-Bartlett returned to the Dardanelles at the end of June, his equipment now including a movie camera which he used to make the only moving pictures of the campaign. Further disastrous landings and assaults in August and, in his view, the continued mismanagement of the campaign led him to make another attempt to influence the government, by sending a letter to the Prime Minister with Australian correspondent Keith Murdoch. Though the letter was seized by the military authorities, Murdoch wrote another version from memory, and this was delivered to Asquith via the Australian PM Fisher. Ashmead-Bartlett was dismissed as a war correspondent in the Dardanelles on 30 September 1915 (he had already unsuccessfully applied to the NPA to be relieved).
Exactly how much effect his interventions had will probably remain unclear, but Ashmead-Bartlett might have been partly responsible for the withdrawal from Gallipoli in 1915 and the subsequent resignation of Churchill. The issue of Ashmead-Bartlett's role in the campaign continued to be raised well after it ended. He was invited to give evidence to the Dardanelles Commission in 1917 and the publication of his books, Ashmead Bartlett's Despatches from the Dardanelles (1916) and The Uncensored Dardanelles (1928), and those of Sir Ian Hamilton and others usually caused a flurry of articles and letters in the press. Even in 1933, after his death, his family were prompted to defend him in the Daily Telegraph following more allegations from Hamilton (E/30). (For an account of his involvement in the Dardanelles campaign and its aftermath, see K. Fewster, 'Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett and the Making of the Anzac Legend' in Journal of Australian Studies No.10, June 1982, pp.17-30)
Ashmead-Bartlett claimed that the War Office persecuted him after his dismissal and in 1916 attempted to prevent him delivering a series of lectures on the Dardanelles campaign in England, the United States, Australia and New Zealand. Certainly he was never permitted to accompany British or Dominion troops again, and on his return to Britain he worked for the Daily Telegraph as one of the British Press group attached to the French Army at the headquarters of Marshal Joffre. In 1918 he sought a post as a correspondent with the American Army in France, but was rejected, apparently as a result of War Office objections.
In 1919 Ashmead-Bartlett was again employed by the Daily Telegraph, reporting on events in Central Europe. He spent several months in Austria, Poland, Romania and Hungary, and was horrified by the threat of Bolshevism in the region. In Budapest he became directly involved in political intrigue during the Hungarian revolution, working with an anti-Bolshevik faction and lobbying British ministers on their behalf.
Despite being based in Paris he re-entered British politics and was narrowly defeated by the Labour candidate in North Hammersmith in 1923, but won the seat in 1924. As an MP his main concern was foreign policy. In 1926 he was obliged to resign his seat because of bankruptcy. He returned to work as a special correspondent for the Daily Telegraph, reporting on, inter alia, the civil war in China in 1927, Soviet Russia in 1928, Palestine in 1929, and India in 1930. At the same time he continued to publish books based on his newspaper writings.
He became ill while covering the Spanish Revolution and died at Lisbon on 4 May 1931.
Publications: Port Arthur: the siege and capitulation (W. Blackwood & Sons: Edinburgh & London, 1906); The Immortals and the Channel Tunnel. A discussion in Valhalla (W. Blackwood & Sons: Edinburgh & London, 1907); Richard Langhorne. The romance of a Socialist (W. Blackwood & Sons: Edinburgh & London, 1908); The Passing of the Shereefian Empire (W. Blackwood & Sons: Edinburgh & London, 1910); in collaboration with Seabury Ashmead-Bartlett, With the Turks in Thrace (William Heinemann: London, 1913); Ashmead Bartlett's Despatches from the Dardanelles (George Newnes: London, 1916); Some of my Experiences in the Great War (George Newnes: London, 1918); The Tragedy of Central Europe (Thornton Butterworth: London, 1923); The Uncensored Dardanelles (Hutchinson & Co.: London, 1928); The Riddle of Russia (Cassell & Co.: London, 1929).
Sir Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett's younger brother and Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett's uncle was Rt. Hon. William Lehman Ashmead Bartlett Burdett-Coutts (1851-1921). He married Angela, Baroness Burdett-Coutts (1823-1906), and assumed her surname. He was also an MP (Con, Westminster, 1885-1921).


Scope and content/abstract:

Most of the Ashmead-Bartlett collection are papers of the younger Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett (1881-1931), though there are papers relating to his father, Sir Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett (1851-1921).
Sir Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett: correspondence - album of letters replying to an appeal for financial assistance for his newspaper England and letters of congratulation on knighthood (1892-93) and album regarding speaking engagements for Conservative Party (1892-93); articles - account of trip to South Africa and Swaziland (1900-01); press cuttings - album on activities (1891-95) and album of obituary notices (1902); miscellaneous items (ref. F/1), including letters, press cuttings, voting card from 1900 election.
Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett - There is a substantial amount of material relating to Ashmead-Bartlett's involvement in the Gallipoli campaign spread throughout the collection, as well as other material relating to the rest of his career: diaries and autobiographical sketches (1897-1925), including descriptions of Turkey (1897), South Africa (1900), France, England (1901) London and visit to West Indies (1902), life in England (1906-09, 1911), Morocco (1908), visits to America and Tripoli (1911), Dardanelles (1915), lecture tour of America, Australia and New Zealand (1916), Hungary (1919-20); correspondence (1892-1930, predominantly 1907-1930), relating mainly to journalistic activities, particularly in the Dardanelles, and with Daily Telegraph and William Burdett-Coutts; articles and writings (1900-1930) written by Ashmead-Bartlett, mainly as war correspondent, but also [unpublished?] material on foreign affairs at Westminster, including his maiden speech to the House of Commons; photographs
(c1890-1930), including Ashmead-Bartlett and family members, and pictures of South Africa, siege of Port Arthur, North Africa, Dardanelles, France, including picture agency material; press cuttings (1908-33) on conflicts which Ashmead-Bartlett reported on; drafts of publications, including The Uncensored Dardanelles and The Tragedy of Central Europe; research material - pamphlets and maps.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Arranged according to record type: diaries, correspondence, articles, photographs, press cuttings, miscellaneous publications. Material relating to Sir Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett is spread throughout the collection, e.g. his correspondence is held in the correspondence series, along with that of his son. Similarly, material relating to a particular subject will be found in different series. It is not clear when the current arrangement was established.

Conditions governing access:

Open although advance notice should be given.

Conditions governing reproduction:

A photocopying service is available, at the discretion of the Library staff. Copies are supplied solely for the purposes of research and private study. Requests to publish or quote from original material should be made to the Information Resources Manager.

Finding aids:

Catalogued to file level (see link to repository catalogue).

Archival Information

Archival history:

The papers were first deposited at ICS on a temporary basis in 1988. They were donated to ICS by Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett's son, Mr Francis Ashmead-Bartlett, in 1997.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Allied Materials

Related material:

Some relevant publications are available in ICS Library.

The original diary kept at Gallipoli in 1915 was sold to the Mitchell Library, Sydney, Australia (MS 1583); some of the film he took in Gallipoli was used in the film Heroes of Gallipoli (with titles by C.E.W. Bean, Australian correspondent and Gallipoli historian), some of which is held at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, ACT

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Created 13/06/2000, revised by Alan Kucia as part of the RSLP AIM25 Project.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000 and National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal Place and Corporate Names 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Created 13/06/2000.

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