See Sir Ian Hamilton, Gallipoli Diary (1920); R. R. James, Gallipoli (1965).
The Gallipoli Campaign took place at Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey from 25 April 1915 to 9 January 1916, during the First World War. A joint British Empire and French operation was mounted to capture the Ottoman capital of Constantinople (now Istanbul), and secure a sea route to Russia. The attempt failed, with heavy casualties on both sides.
In Turkey, the campaign is known as the Çanakkale Savaşları, after the province of Çanakkale. In the United Kingdom, it is called the Dardanelles Campaign or Gallipoli. In France it is called Les Dardanelles. In Australia, New Zealand, and Newfoundland, it is known as the Gallipoli Campaign or simply as Gallipoli. It is also known as the Battle of Gallipoli.
The Gallipoli campaign resonated profoundly among all nations involved. In Turkey, the battle is perceived as a defining moment in the history of the Turkish people—a final surge in the defense of the motherland as the centuries-old Ottoman Empire was crumbling. The struggle laid the grounds for the Turkish War of Independence and the foundation of the Turkish Republic eight years later under Atatürk, himself a commander at Gallipoli.
In Australia and New Zealand, the campaign was the first major battle undertaken by a joint military formation, the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC), and is often considered to mark the birth of national consciousness in both of these countries. Anzac Day (25 April) remains the most significant commemoration of military casualties and veterans in Australia and New Zealand, surpassing Armistice Day/Remembrance Day.
By late 1914, the Western Front, in France and Belgium, had effectively become fixed. A new front was desperately needed. Also, the Allies hoped that an attack on the Ottomans would draw Bulgaria and Greece into the war on the Allied side. However, an early proposal to use Greek troops to invade the Gallipoli peninsula was vetoed by Russia as its South Slavic allies would feel threatened by an expansion of Greek power and influence.
A first proposal to attack Turkey had already been suggested by French Minister of Justice Aristide Briand in November 1914, but it was not supported. A suggestion by British Naval Intelligence (Room 39) to bribe the Turks over to the Allied side was not taken up.
Later in November, First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill put forward his first plans for a naval attack on the Dardanelles, based at least in part on what turned out to be erroneous reports regarding Turkish troop strength, as prepared by Lieut. T. E. Lawrence. He reasoned that the Royal Navy had a large number of obsolete battleships which could not be used against the German High Seas Fleet in the North Sea, but which might well be made useful in another theatre. Initially, the attack was to be made by the Royal Navy alone, with only token forces from the army being required for routine occupation tasks.
On 19 February, the first attack on the Dardanelles began when a strong Anglo-French task force, including the British battleship HMS Queen Elizabeth, bombarded Turkish artillery along the coast. Many believed victory to be inevitable. Admiral Carden sent a cable to Churchill on 4 March, stating that the fleet could expect to arrive in Constantinople within fourteen days. .A sense of impending victory was heightened by the interception of a German wireless message which revealed the Ottoman Dardanelle forts were close to running out of ammunition. When the message was relayed to Carden, it was agreed a main attack would be launched on or around 17 March. It transpired that Carden, suffering from stress, was placed on the sick list by the medical officer, meaning the fleet was now placed in command of Admiral de Robeck.
On 18 March the main attack was launched. The fleet, comprising 18 battleships as well as an array of cruisers and destroyers, sought to target the narrowest point of the Dardanelles where the straits are just a mile wide. Despite some damage sustained by ships engaging the Ottoman forts, minesweepers were ordered to proceed along the straits. According to an account by the Turkish General Staff, by 2pm "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 defense had slackened considerably. The French ship Bouvet exploded in mysterious circumstances, causing it to capsize with its entire crew aboard. Minesweepers, manned by civilians and under constant fire of Ottoman shells, retreated leaving the minefields largely intact. HMS Irresistible and HMS Inflexible both sustained critical damage from mines, although there was confusion during the battle whether torpedoes were to blame. HMS Ocean, sent to rescue the Irresistible, was itself struck by an explosion and both ships eventually sunk. The French battleships Suffren and Gaulois were also badly damaged. All the ships had sailed through a new line of mines placed secretly by the defenders 10 days before.
The losses prompted the Allies to cease any further attempts to force the straits by naval power alone. Losses had been anticipated during the planning of the campaign, so mainly obsolete battleships had been sent which were unfit to face the German fleet, but many naval officers including de Robeck and Fisher did not consider the losses acceptable. The defeat of the British fleet had also given the Turks a morale boost, although their gunners had almost run out of ammunition before the British fleet retreated. The results of the decision to turn back are unclear— if the British had pushed forward with the naval attack, as Churchill demanded, then Gallipoli might not have been a defeat. On the other hand, it is possible that they would simply have trapped themselves in the Sea of Marmara, with force insufficient to take Constantinople and a minefield between themselves and the Mediterranean Sea.
In early 1915, Australian and New Zealand volunteer soldiers were encamped in Egypt, undergoing training prior to being sent to France. The infantry were formed into the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC), which comprised the Australian 1st Division and the New Zealand and Australian Division. General Hamilton also had the regular British 29th Division, the Royal Naval Division (RND) (Royal Marines and hastily drafted naval recruits) and the French Oriental Expeditionary Corps (including four Senegalese battalions) under his command.
There was a delay of over six weeks before many of the troops arrived from Britain, allowing Turkish forces time to prepare for a land assault. Ottoman commanders began to debate the best means of defending the peninsula. All agreed that the most effective form of defence was to hold the highground on the ridges of peninsula, there was disagreement however as to where they believed the enemy would land, and hence where to concentrate their own forces. Mustafa Kemal, a 34 year old Lt.-Col., familiar with the Gallipoli peninsula from his operations against Bulgaria in the Balkan War, believed Cape Helles, the southern tip of the peninsula, and Gaba Tepe would be the two most likely areas for landing. In the case of the former, Kemal perceived the British would use their navy to command the land from everyside which the tip of the peninsula would allow. In Gaba Tepe, the short distance to the eastern coast meant forces could easily reach the Narrows.
Ultimately, Otto Liman von Sanders disagreed. In his view, the greatest danger posed was in Besika Bay on the Asiatic coast, where Sanders believed British forces would benefit from more accessible terrain and target the most important Ottoman batteries guarding the straits..As such, Sanders placed two divisions, a third of the total force of the fifth army, in this area. Two more divisions were concentrated at Bulair at the northern isthmus of the peninsula, where he believed that should the area be captured, vital supply and communications lines would be cut. Finally, At Cape Helles, on the tip of the peninsula, and along the Aegean coast, two more divisions were placed in the form of the Ninth and Nineteenth division, the latter of which was placed in command of Mustafa Kemal. For von Sanders, the bulk of the forces were to be held inland with minor coastal defences spread across the peninsula. The strategy drew complaints from Turkish commanders, including Mustafa Kemal, who believed Turkish forces were too widely dispersed and not in a position to drive the attackers immediately into the sea as soon as their invasion commenced.
The delay in landings by the British allowed Turkish officers to prepare defenses. Von Sanders notes "The British allowed us four good weeks of respite for all this work before their great disembarkation...This respite just sufficed for the most indispensable measures to be taken." Roads were constructed, small boats assembled to carry troops and equipment across the narrows, beaches were wired and makeshift mines constructed from torpedo-heads. Trenches and gun emplacements were dug along the beaches whilst troops were regularly taken on long marches to avoid lethargy. Mustafa Kemal, whose Nineteenth division would become pivotal in the battle, observed the beaches and awaited signs of an invasion from his post at Boghali, near Maidos.
The Helles landing was made by the 29th Division under the command of Major-General Aylmer Hunter-Weston, on five beaches in an arc about the tip of the peninsula, designated from east to west as S, V, W, X and Y beach.
The commander of the Y Beach landing was able to walk unopposed to within 500 metres of Krithia village, which was deserted. The British never got so close again. Y Beach was eventually evacuated the following day as Turkish reinforcements arrived.
The main landings were made at V Beach, beneath the old Seddülbahir fortress, and at W Beach, a short distance to the west on the other side of the Helles headland.
At V Beach the covering force from the Royal Munster Fusiliers and Royal Hampshires was landed from a converted collier, SS River Clyde, which was run aground beneath the fortress so that the troops could disembark directly via ramps to the shore. The Royal Dublin Fusiliers would land at V Beach from open boats. At W Beach the Lancashire Fusiliers also landed in open boats on a small beach overlooked by dunes and obstructed with barbed wire. On both beaches the Turkish defenders were in a position to inflict appalling casualties on the landing infantry. The troops emerging one by one from the sally ports on the River Clyde presented perfect targets to the machine guns in the Seddülbahir fort. Out of the first 200 soldiers to disembark, only 21 men made it onto the beach.
As at Anzac, the Turkish defenders were too few to force the British off the beach. At W Beach, thereafter known as Lancashire Landing, the Lancashires were able to overwhelm the defences despite their dreadful losses, 600 killed or wounded out of a total strength of 1,000. The battalions that landed at V Beach suffered about 70% casualties. Six awards of the Victoria Cross were made amongst the Lancashires at W Beach. Six Victoria Crosses were also awarded amongst the infantry and sailors at the V Beach landing and a further three were awarded the following day as they finally fought their way off the beach. After the landings, there were so few of the Dublin Fusiliers and Munster Fusiliers left that they were amalgamated into one unit, "The Dubsters". Only one Dubliner officer survived the landing; overall, of the 1,012 Dubliners who landed, only 11 would survive the entire Gallipoli campaign unscathed.
On the afternoon of 27 April Kemal launched a concerted attack to drive the Anzacs back to the beach. With the support of naval gunfire, the Turks were held off throughout the night.
On 28 April, the British, now supported by the French on the right of the line, intended to capture Krithia in what became known as the First Battle of Krithia. The plan of attack was overly complex and poorly communicated to the commanders in the field. The troops of the 29th Division were still exhausted and unnerved by the battle for the beaches and for Seddülbahir village, captured after heavy fighting on 26 April. The attack ground to a halt around 6 pm with a gain of some ground but the objective of Krithia village was not reached. After the battle, the Allied trenches lay about halfway between the Helles headland and Krithia village. With Turkish opposition stiffening by the day, the opportunity for the anticipated swift victory on the peninsula was disappearing. Helles, like Anzac, became a siege. Strong Turkish counter-attacks on the nights of 1 May and 3 May were repulsed despite breaking through the French defences.
The first attempt at an offensive at Anzac took place on the evening of 2 May when New Zealand and Australian Division commander, General Godley, ordered the Australian 4th Infantry Brigade, commanded by General John Monash, and the New Zealand Infantry Brigade, to attack from Russell's Top and Quinn's Post towards Baby 700. The troops advanced a short distance during the night and tried to dig in to hold their gains but were forced to retreat by the night of 3 May, having suffered about 1,000 casualties.
Believing Anzac to be secure, Hamilton moved two brigades, the Australian Second Infantry Brigade and the New Zealand Infantry Brigade, to the Helles front as reserves for the Second Battle of Krithia starting on 6 May. This was the first major assault at Helles and gained about a quarter of a mile on a wide front at the now customary enormous cost in casualties.
The Turks launched a major assault at Anzac on 19 May—42,000 Turks attacked 17,000 Australians and New Zealanders—but the attack miscarried. Lacking sufficient artillery and ammunition, the Turks relied on surprise and weight of numbers for success but their preparations were detected and the defenders were ready. When it was over the Turks had suffered about 10,000 casualties. In comparison, the Australian casualties were a mere 160 killed and 468 wounded. The Turkish losses were so severe that a truce was organized for 24 May in order to bury the large numbers of dead lying in no man's land.
In May the British naval artillery advantage was diminished following the torpedoing of the battleship HMS Goliath on 13 May by Turkish torpedo boat Muavenet-i Milliye. Shortly after German submarine SM U-21 sank HMS Triumph on 25 May and HMS Majestic on 27 May. Following these losses much of the battleship support was withdrawn and those remaining would fire while under way, reducing their accuracy and effectiveness.
In the Third Battle of Krithia on 4 June all thought of a decisive breakthrough was gone and the plans for battle had reverted to trench warfare with objectives being measured in hundreds of metres. Casualties ran to around 25% for both sides; the British suffering 4,500 from an attacking force of 20,000.
In June, a fresh division, the 52nd Division, began to land at Helles in time to participate in the last of the major Helles battles, the Battle of Gully Ravine which was launched on 28 June. This battle advanced the British line along the left (Aegean) flank of the battlefield which resulted in a rare but limited victory for the Allies. Between 1 July and 5 July the Turks launched a series of desperate counter-attacks against the new British line but failed to regain the lost ground. Their casualties for the period were horrendous, estimated at in excess of 14,000.
One final British action was made at Helles on 12 July before the Allied main effort was shifted north to Anzac. Two fresh brigades from the 52nd Division were thrown into an attack in the centre of the line along Achi Baba Nullah (known as Bloody Valley) and sustained 30% casualties without making any significant progress.
The repeated failure of the Allies to capture Krithia or make any progress on the Helles front led Hamilton to pursue a new plan for the campaign which resulted in what is now called the Battle of Sari Bair. On the night of 6 August a fresh landing of two infantry divisions was to be made at Suvla, five miles (8 km) north of Anzac. Meanwhile at Anzac a strong assault would be made on the Sari Bair range by breaking out into the rough and thinly defended terrain north of the Anzac perimeter.
The landing at Suvla Bay was only lightly opposed but the British commander, Lieutenant-General Sir Frederick Stopford, had so diluted his early objectives that little more than the beach was seized. Once again the Turks were able to win the race for the high ground of the Anafarta Hills thereby rendering the Suvla front another case of static trench warfare.
The offensive was preceded on the evening of 6 August by diversionary assaults at Helles and Anzac. At Helles, the diversion at Krithia Vineyard became another futile battle with no gains and heavy casualties for both sides. At Anzac, an attack on the Turkish trenches at Lone Pine by the infantry brigades of the Australian 1st Division was a rare victory for the ANZACs. However, the main assault aimed at the peaks of Chunuk Bair and Hill 971 was less successful.
The force striking for the nearer peak of Chunuk Bair comprised the New Zealand Infantry Brigade. It came within 500 metres of the peak by dawn on 7 August but was not able to seize the summit until the following morning. This delay had fatal consequences for another supporting attack on the morning of 7 August; that of the Australian 3rd Light Horse Brigade at the Nek which was to coincide with the New Zealanders attacking back down from Chunuk Bair against the rear of the Turkish defences. The New Zealanders held out on Chunuk Bair for two days before relief was provided by two New Army battalions from the Wiltshire and Loyal North Lancashire Regiments. A massive Turkish counter-attack, led in person by Mustafa Kemal, swept these two battalions from the heights.
Of the 760 men of the New Zealanders' Wellington Battalion who reached the summit, 711 were casualties.
Another planned attack on Hill 971 never took place. The attacking force of the Australian 4th Infantry Brigade (General J. Monash) and an Indian brigade was defeated by the terrain and became lost during the night. All subsequent attempts to resume the attack were easily repulsed by the Turkish defenders at great cost to the Allies.
The Suvla landing was reinforced by the arrival of the British 53rd and 54th Divisions along with the British 10th Division from Kitchener's New Army Divisions plus the dismounted yeomanry of the 2nd Mounted Division. The unfortunate 29th Division was also shifted from Helles to Suvla for one more push. The final British attempt to resuscitate the offensive came on 21 August with attacks at Scimitar Hill and Hill 60. Control of these hills would have united the Anzac and Suvla fronts but neither battle achieved success. When fighting at Hill 60 ceased on 29 August, the battle for the Sari Bair heights, and indeed the battle for the peninsula, was effectively over.
Following the landing at Suvla Bay, casualties among the opposing armies were particularly high, and the hot and humid weather made the stench of bodies especially nauseating. A day's truce was arranged to facilitate the removal of the dead and wounded; this momentary contact led to a strange camaraderie between the armies much like the Christmas truce of 1914. Alan Moorehead records that one old Turkish batman was regularly permitted to hang his platoon's washing on the barbed wire without attracting fire, and that there was a "constant traffic" of gifts being thrown across no-man's land: dates and sweets from the Turkish side, and cans of beef and cigarettes from the ANZAC side.
Following the failure of the August Offensive, the Gallipoli campaign entered a hiatus while the future direction was debated. The persistent lack of progress was finally making an impression in the United Kingdom as contrasting news of the true nature of the campaign was smuggled out by journalists like Keith Murdoch and Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett discrediting Hamilton's performance. Disaffected senior officers such as General Stopford also contributed to the general air of gloom. The prospect of evacuation was raised on 11 October 1915 but Hamilton resisted the suggestion, fearing the damage to British prestige. He was dismissed as commander shortly afterwards and replaced by Lieutenant-General Sir Charles Monro.
The situation was complicated by the entry of Bulgaria into the war on the side of the Central Powers. On 5 October 1915 the British opened a second Mediterranean front at Salonika which would compete for reinforcements with Gallipoli. Also Germany would now have a direct land route to Turkey, enabling it to supply heavy siege artillery which would devastate the Allied trench network, especially on the confined front at Anzac.
Having reviewed the state of his command, Monro recommended evacuation. Kitchener disliked the notion of evacuating the peninsula and made a personal visit to consult with the commanders of the three corps; VIII Corps at Helles, IX Corps at Suvla and Anzac. The decision to evacuate was made.
Evacuation of 14 divisions in winter in proximity to the enemy would be difficult and heavy losses were expected. The untenable nature of the Allied position was made apparent when a heavy storm struck on 27 November 1915 and lasted for three days. There followed a blizzard at Suvla in early December. The rain flooded trenches, drowning soldiers and washing unburied corpses into the lines. The following snow killed more men from exposure.
Ironically the evacuation was the greatest Allied success of the campaign. Suvla and Anzac were to be evacuated in late December, the last troops leaving before dawn on 20 December 1915. Troop numbers had been progressively reduced since 7 December 1915 and cunning ruses, such as William Scurry's self-firing rifle, were used to fool the Turks and prevent them discovering that the Allies were departing. At Anzac, the troops would maintain utter silence for an hour or more until the curious Turks would venture out to inspect the trenches, whereupon the Anzacs would open fire. As the numbers in the trenches were thinned, rifles were rigged to fire by water dripped into a pan attached to the trigger.
Helles was retained in case the British wanted to resume the offensive. However, a decision to evacuate there too was made on 27 December. The Turks were now warned of the likelihood of evacuation and mounted an attack on 6 January 1916 but were repulsed. The last British troops departed from Lancashire Landing on 9 January 1916.
No troops were lost during the evacuation despite the warnings of 50% casualties from Sir Ian Hamilton
Though Tsar Nicholas I of Russia had dismissed the Ottoman Empire as "the sick man of Europe", the Ottoman victory over the Allies at Gallipoli renewed Turkey's visions for the empire. In Mesopotamia the Turks surrounded a British expedition at Kut Al Amara, forcing their surrender in 1916. From southern Palestine the Turks pushed into the Sinai with the aim of capturing the Suez Canal and driving the British from Egypt. Defeat at the Battle of Romani marked the end of that ambition and for the remainder of the war the British were on the offensive in the Middle East.
After the evacuation, Allied troops reformed in Egypt. The Anzacs underwent a major reorganization; the infantry were expanded and bound for the Western Front, the light horse were reunited with their horses and formed into mounted divisions for operations in the Sinai and Palestine. At the Battle of Beersheba they would finally achieve the decisive break-through victory that had eluded the Allies on Gallipoli.
Amongst the generals, Gallipoli marked the end for Hamilton and Stopford but Hunter-Weston was granted another opportunity to lead the VIII Corps on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. The competence of Australian brigade commanders, John Monash and Henry Chauvel, would be recognized with promotion to the command of divisions and ultimately corps. Lord Kitchener was too popular to be punished, but he never recovered his old reputation for invincibility and was increasingly sidelined by his colleagues until his death the following year.
On the Turkish side, the meteoric rise of Mustafa Kemal began at Gallipoli.
Churchill was demoted from First Lord of the Admiralty as a prerequisite for Conservative entry to the coalition; although retained in the Cabinet, he was given the sinecure job of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, from which he resigned at the end of 1915, departing for the Western Front where he commanded an infantry battalion early in 1916. Asquith was partly blamed for Gallipoli and other disasters, and was overthrown in December 1916 when David Lloyd George successfully split the Liberal Party in two. Lloyd George formed a new government, in which Churchill, active in the House of Commons again in late 1916, was not offered a place; he was eventually appointed Minister of Munitions in the middle of 1917, although he was not a member of the small War Cabinet and no longer had the influence over war strategy which he had earlier enjoyed.
The Dardanelles Commission was established in 1916 to investigate the failure of the expedition. Its final report was issued in 1919, concluding that the adventure had been badly planned and difficulties underestimated, and that government had exacerbated problems through its procrastination. However its censures did not damage careers measurably further than they already had been.
|- The United Kingdom||21,255||52,230||73,489|
|- France (estimated)||10,000||17,000||27,000|
|- New Zealand||2,701||4,546||7,247|
|Total (both sides)||99,893||237,037||336,930|
Based on the figures in the table, France (37%), New Zealand (35%) and Newfoundland (34%) suffered the greatest percentage of dead per total force contributed. However, all nations at Gallipoli suffered losses of over 25%.
Amongst the dead of the battle was the brilliant young physicist Henry Moseley. Also the poet Rupert Brooke, serving with the Royal Naval Division, died shortly before the invasion from a septic mosquito bite.
There were allegations that Allied forces had attacked or bombarded Turkish hospitals and hospital ships on several occasions between the start of the campaign and September 1915. By July 1915, there were 25 Ottoman hospitals with a total of 10,700 beds, and three hospital ships in the area. The French Government disputed these complaints (made through the Red Cross during the war), and the British response was that if it happened then it was accidental. Russia in turn claimed that the Turks had attacked two of their hospital ships, Portugal and Vperiod, and the Ottoman Government responded that the vessels had been the victims of naval mines.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) is responsible for developing and maintaining permanent cemeteries for all Commonwealth forces—United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, India, Newfoundland and others. There are 31 CWGC cemeteries on the Gallipoli peninsula: six at Helles (plus the only solitary grave), four at Suvla and 21 at Anzac. For many of those killed, and those who died on hospital ships and were buried at sea, there is no known grave. These men's names are each recorded on one of five "memorials to the missing"; the Lone Pine Memorial commemorates Australians killed in the Anzac sector; whilst the Lone Pine, Hill 60, and Chunuk Bair Memorials commemorate New Zealanders killed at Anzac. The Twelve Tree Copse Memorial commemorates the New Zealanders killed in the Helles sector, and British and other troops (including Indian and Australian) who died in the Helles sector are commemorated on the memorial at Cape Helles. British naval casualties who were lost at sea, or buried at sea, are not recorded on these memorials, instead they are listed on memorials in the United Kingdom.
There is only one French cemetery on the Gallipoli peninsula, located near Soroz Beach, which was the French base for the duration of the campaign.
There are two more CWGC cemeteries on the Greek island of Limnos, the first in the town of Moudros and the second in the village of Portianou. Limnos was the hospital base for the Allied forces and most of the buried were among the wounded who didn't survive. In the Portianou village CWGC cemetery lies a grave with the name R.J.M. Mosley on it but it's rather unlikely to be the known physicist Henry Moseley.
There are no large Turkish military cemeteries on the peninsula, but there are numerous memorials, the main ones being the Çanakkale Martyrs' Memorial at Morto Bay, Cape Helles (near S Beach), the Turkish Soldier's Memorial on Chunuk Bair and the memorial and open-air mosque for the 57th Regiment near Quinn's Post (Bomba Sirt). There are a number of Turkish memorials and cemeteries on the Asian shore of the Dardanelles, demonstrating the greater emphasis Turkish history places on the victory of March 18 over the subsequent fighting on the peninsula.
More widely, the battle is regarded as a symbol of military incompetence and catastrophe. The anti-war song And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda, written by Eric Bogle, is about the campaign. The bestselling novel Tell England, first published in 1922, describes the Gallipoli Campaign from the point of view of a British junior subaltern, who saw many of his friends, including his very best friend, perish at Gallipoli.