WW1 Gallipolli battle

This battle was fought from 15th February 1915 to 9th January 1916 on the peninsular in Turkey. The Ottoman empire was in control and Britain, France and Russia sought to weaken the control by taking control of the Turkish straits. With Turkey defeated it would make the Suez canal safe and the year round Allied supply route could be opened via the Black Sea to warm water ports in Russia.

The attempt by the allies to overcome the forces failed and a sea attempt was made in February 1915. After 8 months fighting, with approxiamatly 250,000 casualties on both sides the land campaign ended and the invasion force abandoned.It was a costly campaign on both sided with Winston Churchill heading the British involvement and their sponsership as First Lord of the Admiralty. This was considered a great victory by the Ottomans.

This led to the Turkish war of Independance which took 8 years to be successful.

Australia and New Zealand were heavily involved also in the fighting and Anzac day was established as a national holiday.

On 29 October 1914, two former German warships, the Ottoman Yavûz Sultân Selîm and Midilli, still under the command of German officers, conducted the Black Sea Raid, in which they bombarded the Russian port of Odessa and sank several ships. On 31 October, the Ottomans entered the war and began the Caucasus campaign against Russia. The British briefly bombarded forts in Gallipoli, invaded Mesopotamia and studied the possibility of forcing the Dardanelles.

The Russian cruiser Askold and the French cruiser Requin were also there. Kitchener was working on the plan as late as March 1915 and was the beginning of the British attempt to incite an Arab Revolt. The Alexandretta landing was abandoned because militarily it would have required more resources than France could allocate and politically France did not want the British operating in their sphere of influence, a position to which Britain had agreed in 1912.

By late 1914, on the Western Front, the Franco-British counter-offensive of the First Battle of the Marne had ended and the Belgians, British and French had suffered many casualties in the First Battle of Ypres in Flanders. The war of manoeuvre had ended and been replaced by trench warfare. The German Empire and Austria-Hungary closed the overland trade routes between Britain and France in the west and Russia in the east. The White Sea in the arctic north and the Sea of Okhotsk in the Far East were icebound in winter and distant from the Eastern Front; the Baltic Sea was blockaded by the Kaiserliche Marine (Imperial German Navy) and the entrance to the Black Sea through the Dardanelles was controlled by the Ottoman Empire. While the Ottomans remained neutral, supplies could still be sent to Russia through the Dardanelles but prior to the Ottoman entry into the war, the straits had been closed; in November the Ottomans began to mine the waterway.

The French Minister of Justice, Aristide Briand, proposed in November to attack the Ottoman Empire but this was rejected and an attempt by the British to bribe the Ottomans to join the Allied side also failed. Later that month, Winston ChurchillFirst Lord of the Admiralty, proposed a naval attack on the Dardanelles, based in part on erroneous reports of Ottoman troop strength. Churchill wanted to use a large number of obsolete battleships, which could not operate against the German High Seas Fleet, in a Dardanelles operation, with a small occupation force provided by the army. It was hoped that an attack on the Ottomans would also draw Bulgaria and Greece (formerly Ottoman possessions) into the war on the Allied side. On 2 January 1915, Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia appealed to Britain for assistance against the Ottomans, who were conducting the Caucasus campaign. Planning began for a naval demonstration in the Dardanelles, to divert Ottoman troops from Caucasia.

Attempt to force the Straits

On 17 February 1915, a British seaplane from HMS Ark Royal flew a reconnaissance sortie over the Straits. Two days later, the first attack on the Dardanelles began when a strong Anglo-French task force, including the British dreadnought HMS Queen Elizabeth, began a long-range bombardment of Ottoman coastal artillery batteries. The British had intended to use eight aircraft from Ark Royal to spot for the bombardment but harsh conditions rendered all but one of these, a Short Type 136, unserviceable. A period of bad weather slowed the initial phase but by 25 February the outer forts had been reduced and the entrance cleared of mines. After this, Royal Marines were landed to destroy guns at Kum Kale

also Seddülbahir, while the naval bombardment shifted to batteries between Kum Kale and Kephez.

Frustrated by the mobility of the Ottoman batteries, which evaded the Allied bombardments and threatened the minesweepers sent to clear the Straits, Churchill began pressuring the naval commander, Admiral Sackville Carden, to increase the fleet’s efforts. Carden drew up fresh plans and on 4 March sent a cable to Churchill, stating that the fleet could expect to arrive in Istanbul within 14 days. A sense of impending victory was heightened by the interception of a German wireless message that revealed the Ottoman Dardanelles forts were running out of ammunition. When the message was relayed to Carden, it was agreed the main attack would be launched on or around 17 March. Carden, suffering from stress, was placed on the sick list by the medical officer and command was taken over by Admiral John de Robeck.

18 March 1915

Panoramic view of the Allied fleet in the Dardanelles

On the morning of 18 March 1915, the Allied fleet, comprising 18 battleships with an array of cruisers and destroyers began the main attack against the narrowest point of the Dardanelles, where the straits are 1 mile (1.6 km) wide. Despite some damage to the Allied ships engaging the forts by Otterman return fire minesweepers were ordered along the straights.

In the Ottoman official account, by 2:00 p.m. “all telephone wires were cut, all communications with the forts were interrupted, some of the guns had been knocked out … in consequence the artillery fire of the defence had slackened considerably”. The French battleship Bouvet struck a mine, causing her to capsize in two minutes, with just 75 survivors out of a total crew of 718. Minesweepers, manned by civilians, retreated under Ottoman artillery fire, leaving the minefields largely intact. HMS Irresistible and HMS Inflexible struck mines and Irresistible was sunk, with most of her surviving crew rescued; Inflexible was badly damaged and withdrawn. There was confusion during the battle about the cause of the damage; some participants blamed torpedoes. HMS Ocean was sent to rescue Irresistible but was disabled from an artillery shell, struck a mine, and was evacuated, eventually sinking.

The French battleships Suffren and Gaulois sailed through a new line of mines placed secretly by the Ottoman minelayer Nusret ten days before and were also damaged. The losses forced de Robeck to sound the “general recall” to protect what remained of his force. During the planning of the campaign, naval losses had been anticipated and mainly obsolete battleships, unfit to face the German fleet, had been sent. Some of the senior naval officers like the commander of Queen Elizabeth, Commodore Roger Keyes, felt that they had come close to victory, believing that the Ottoman guns had almost run out of ammunition but the views of de Robeck, the First Sea Lord Jackie Fisher and others prevailed. Allied attempts to force the straits using naval power were terminated, due to the losses and bad weather. Planning to capture the Turkish defences by land, to open the way for the ships began. Two Allied submarines tried to traverse the Dardanelles but were lost to mines and the strong currents.

After the failure of the naval attacks, troops were assembled to eliminate the Ottoman mobile artillery, which was preventing the Allied minesweepers from clearing the way for the larger vessels. Kitchener appointed General Sir Ian Hamilton to command the 78,000 men of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (MEF). Soldiers from the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) and New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) were encamped in Egypt, undergoing training prior to being sent to France. The Australian and New Zealand troops were formed into the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC), commanded by Lieutenant GeneralSir William Birdwood, comprising the volunteer 1st Australian Division and the New Zealand and Australian Division. The ANZAC troops were joined by the regular29th Division and the Royal Naval Division. The French Corps expéditionnaire d’Orient (Orient Expeditionary Corps), initially consisting of two brigades within one division, was subsequently placed under Hamilton’s command.

Over the following month, Hamilton prepared his plan and the British and French divisions joined the Australians in Egypt. Hamilton chose to concentrate on the southern part of the Gallipoli peninsula at Cape Helles and Seddülbahir, where an unopposed landing was expected. The Allies initially discounted the fighting ability of the Ottoman soldiers. The naïveté of the Allied planners was illustrated by a leaflet that was issued to the British and Australians while they were still in Egypt,

The underestimation of Ottoman military potential stemmed from a “sense of superiority” among the Allies, because of the decline of the Ottoman Empire and its poor performance in Libya during the Italo-Turkish War of 1911–1912 and the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913. Allied intelligence failed to adequately prepare for the campaign, in some cases relying on information gained from Egyptian travel guides. The troops for the assault were loaded on transports in the order they were to disembark, causing a long delay which meant that many troops, including the French at Mudros, were forced to detour to Alexandria to embark on the ships that would take them into battle. A five-week delay until the end of April ensued, during which the Ottomans strengthened their defences on the peninsula; although bad weather during March and April might have delayed the landings anyway, preventing supply and reinforcement. Following preparations in Egypt, Hamilton and his headquarters staff arrived at Mudros on 10 April. The ANZAC Corps departed Egypt in early April and assembled on the island of Lemnos in Greece on 12 April, where a small garrison had been established in early March and practice landings were undertaken. The British 29th Division departed for Mudros on 7 April and the Royal Naval Division rehearsed on the island of Skyros, after arriving there on 17 April. That day, the British submarine HMS E15 tried to run the straits but hit a submarine net, ran aground and was shelled by a Turkish fort, killing its commander, Lieutenant Commander Theodore S. Brodie and six of his crew; the survivors were forced to surrender. The Allied fleet and British and French troops assembled at Mudros, ready for the landings but poor weather from 19 March grounded Allied aircraft for nine days and on 24 days only a partial programme of reconnaissance flights were possible.

Aftermath

The Allied campaign was plagued by poor planning, untrained troops, poor maps, poor intelligence, poor artillary,logistical inequalities, tactics were none existent.

Geography of the area was misunderstood so men were directed to the wrong beaches and ended up locked into a narrow area where they could not fight efficiently. The Ottomans ie the enemy could keep control of the high ground therefore giving them an advantage.

The political repercussions were substansive. Many leaders resigned in the military. Winston Churchill decided to stay and this ended in Prime Minister Asquith ending his Liberal government and creating a co alition government. Asquith was largely blamed for the problems.

Casualties

Over 164,000 Ottomans killed

187,000 Allies killed

including 120,000 British killed.

Sickness

Many soldiers suffered typhoid and dysentry and some died of it because of the insanitary conditions in which they were forced to live.90,000 were evacuated to hospital to Egypt and Malta. Many who died on the hospital ships were buried at sea so therefore had no grave.

There are no cemetries for the Ottoman/Turkish dead only memorials.

Only a small section of the Australian and New Zealand fighting force input in the fight, but it did place the peoples in a state of a “baptism of fire” and a hard lesson learned. 50,000 Australians and 17,000 New Zealanders.

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