Sunday, 18 October 2015

Britain Goes To War: Structure

A bit confused with how BGTW is going to pan out or what section (indicated with a # symbol) will cover what part of 1897-1914? You've come to the right place! Herein we explain what each of ten sections will bring to you...


#1. Introduction. Self-explanatory really, this section includes 3 parts wherein a prologue, a pitch and a plan explain what is to come. The prologue is more atmospheric, the pitch justifies the project for me and you, and the plan illustrates what way we're going to go about this whole thing.

#2. Background. Setting the stage for the world that existed from 1897-1914 is no small or easy task. Expect this section to constitute the bulk of the project. Since each part is resembled by a letter, you should also expect this section to run from A-Z. It will be quite the alphabetical journey for all of us. It is also here that you should learn and immerse yourself into the era at hand, hopefully the anecdotes, issues, peoples and places within will surprise and enthrall you as much as they did me. There is quite the story here folks, trust me.

An image indicative of the circumstances of the era. A concerned Chinese statesman looks on while the European power of the day carve up the Chinese pie. It stands as one of my favourites for obvious reasons, but I also find it stands as a great example of the kind of world Britain lived in from 1897-1914, where declining nations were fair game and imperialism reigned supreme.

#3. The Distant Crisis. While we've looked at the July Crisis before, we haven't looked at it solely from the perspective of one power. Britain's journey within the Crisis is perhaps the most interesting, since her experience here betrayed no signs of a possible war within the month. Expect a lot of country hopping, ambassador chasing and headline reading as we journey across the world that was wavering before the prospect of war.

#4. 1st August 1914. The first of 4 episodes aimed at examining the in-depth events of the four days of August that led to war in Britain. The 1st of August opened with German mobilisation and Sir Edward Grey and most of his colleagues very much in the dark as to what the Russians and Germans were doing. With war declared on this day between the two, it was imperative that proper news was received, but as we'll see, Britain was nothing if not thoroughly in the dark.

#5. 2nd August 1914. Britain reacts to the news that the Austro-Serb war will soon become a world war, while debate rages over what should happen were France to become involved. Such concerns lead Cabinet members to the shocking discovery that all of this time, Grey had been actively encouraging and plotting alongside the French, and that the so-called Entente had been developed to a far more detailed stage than either the public or politicians had been made aware. Still, Grey made a great efforts to formalise his colleagues' commitment to the French cause, and by the end of the day had a solid policy in place which seemed to spell disaster for the Germans, just as the latter were digging themselves deeper into a Belgian hole.

#6. 3rd August 1914. When Sir Edward Grey stood up to speak to a crowded House of Commons on this day, he did so in the knowledge that he would be speaking against the grain. Once he sat down, he had seemingly changed the public and political mind. Or had he? How important and forceful were his arguments, and to what extent did his colleagues believe or disapprove of his stance? As events on the continent ticked away, British statesmen at the highest level were coming to see the writing on the wall, though some still were determined to oppose the actions of the government that housed them. In the evening a few radicals and those that shared their opinions took to Parliament to debate the Government's course of action. Words were fierce and the conversations heated, but moods were somewhat calmed by the official promise that, of course, the Britain would not go to war without their approval and without the formality of a proper debate. In reality though, events within the country and without would conspire to erase this chance.

Sir Edward Grey, the British Foreign Secretary tasked with controlling British foreign policy and affairs. It is to him that most account British policy and its various idiosyncrasies from 1906-1916. During this decade Grey perhaps did more to shape British policy than any other man. 

An imagining of the speech Grey gave on the afternoon of 3/8/2014, during which time he supposedly convinced the majority of the House of Commons that war with Germany would be necessary should she threaten the integrity of Belgium or even France. Honour, morality and previously unknown agreements constituted the bulk of his arguments in favour, as pro-war statesmen and stunned colleagues looked on at this defining moment in British history.

#7. 4th August 1914. In less than a few days Britain had gone from a disinterested spectator to a fully involved power, and she was about to become a participant. Now that news of Belgium was fully learned, it became harder and harder to quash the sympathetic elements of British opinion which argued for immediate action. These calls were not, as it turned out, insurmountable, but the issue was not persuading the nation, it was persuading the Cabinet, and with the top officials within it favouring war, such persuasion was not as hard in coming as it perhaps should have been, considering the likely consequences. Debates within the media and private halls will be analysed, as statesmen choose their sides along with the pillars of the media and the masses, before the bell chimes and war between Britain and Germany - that nightmare nobody imagined, became a reality.

#8. Britain at War and Beyond. Now in a war nobody could have anticipated a month ago, how did the seemingly under-prepared nature of the armed forces react? Was there much politicking to be done in order to make the wheels of state turn towards war? The diplomacy was breaking down across the continent, as Britain reinforced itself and withdrew its statesmen from the residences of the hostile powers' capitals. Many speculated that the combined forces of the Central Powers would be no match for the allies, but some feared the worst, and with good reason. In the duration of the war Britain lost more men and money than it had even deemed imaginable, and as the war dragged on and the nations that participated became ever more exhausted, it became less about victory and more about survival. As it limped over the finish line in November 1918, Britain could claim to have done its fair share of fighting and losing in the war, but while it was seen as a proud national victory by those that sought significance in the loss, there was already a segment of thinkers ready to criticise what had just been done and lost in their name. It is from the legacy of these thinkers that this project descends from and owes so much to.

The propaganda of the era is something that I find endlessly entertaining.

The importance of getting the Irish on side was considerable; Ireland had been a consistent thorn in Britain's side for years, and with Home Rule on the horizon and a potentially restless population next door, Britain had to do all in its power to pacify their neighbour and convince them that the war was a worthy one. It was not, as our investigation will reveal, a particularly difficult task.

Caricatures of the map of Europe were legion. Examples such as this demonstrate the stigmas attached to each nations as the war began to loom large  

#9. Alternative Histories. Perhaps the most incredible fact of all is that it could have gone so differently. Had one individual not had his breakfast and been a little more grumpy, had someone been in the wrong place at the wrong time, had a sudden illness swamped a certain VIP, had an election or negotiation not gone a certain way, we would all be living in a different world right now. Herein I try to ascertain the answer to the key question: would it have been a better world, by examining the morass of alternative possibilities that Britain could have pursued other than war in summer 1914. Remember I welcome all constructive scenarios that you are willing to send me!

Alternative histories of WW2 are a dime a dozen, which of course is not a bad thing. But what about WW1? Is there a market for that genre of alternative history too?

Perhaps the most striking image of WW2 alternative history is the notion that Britain became a Nazi satellite like all the others, but would the same thing have happened had the Germans defeated the allies in the First World War? Why or why not? Answering the questions will be my task.

#10. Conclusion. Our epic journey finally reaches its end, and I summarise the major findings as well as answer the questions that set this project in motion in the first place. We've been through a lot together you and I, but now it is time to put this era to rest. You know the story, now it is time to find out, conclusively, how it ends.


So that's the plan. As far as #2 goes, I reckon that providing you with a detailed plan of each episode within that wouldn't be wise at this point, since things chop and change on a fairly regular basis. It is also somewhat nice to have a surprise episode greet you every Monday morning, so keep an eye out for any news on the FB page if you want any clues. Other than that, thanks for reading, and I hope you feel a bit more able now to wrap your head around the whole project. It is gonna be a good one!


Britain Goes To War: Introduction. The Prologue, The Pitch and The Plan.

Well, that was tense. After much stress and concern over how you would all react, the very first few actual episodes of the series have been released, with the third one out tomorrow. What did everyone think? I would like to believe that even though we started by looking at Queen Victoria and didn't look much deeper than that, that you are still at least somewhat intrigued as to where we're going to go next. In this post here I'm basically going to run through the points that I mentioned in the three intro episodes, mostly so that it feels more condensed to you guys and so that you get another insight into why I did what I did. So without further ado...

A) The Prologue

No, we're not becoming the Twilight Histories Podcast, and although I really did appreciate Jordan Harbour's kind words, I would like to address the feelings and worries I'm sure some of you had when you listened to the very un-WDF prologue episode for this project. The entire episode itself was meant to startle you, from the shocking revelation at the end, that it really was me who in fact had been guiding you through the gallery this whole time, to the beginning rendition of Auld Lang Syne that ended so abruptly in a gunshot, and was designed to resemble you awaking from a bad dream. Did you understand the metaphors? That gallery was essentially my podcast; that gallery was When Diplomacy Fails, and each of its episodes was represented in that gallery by a painting, a statue or a piece of furniture. Some episodes were more weighty or were composed of multiple parts, so I like to imagine that if you'd seen the larger episodes visualised in the gallery they would have more items there to represent them, while the smaller, or perhaps older episodes would have less. Anyway, so you were that person, you were the guy selected by me, the curator of the gallery, to go on this journey. Why? You don't know yet, in fact the episode ended without it being revealed exactly why it was that the curator cared so much to do all this and involve so heavily in the first place. Perhaps he never will, or perhaps your interactions with the curator have not yet come to an end? Watch this space...

If you felt as though you could imagine the society of 1897 then I will consider it a job well done. I completely appreciate that such a narrative wasn't what you were expecting to start you off. Perhaps you expected something that would jar you, but still give you all of the facts. Perhaps you anticipated something with less flair and more substance. Perhaps you wished you were in the Palace of Versailles, about to meet Louis XIV in person and not about to reside in the era you feel you know so well already. Whatever your feelings after listening to it, I am of course open to tips, opinions and other helpful nuggets to improve any such episodes I attempt in the future.

Everything, even down to the voices of the curator and 'you', were lovingly recorded numerous times for proper pitch and feel. While that might sound incredible considering how awful that accent was, I feel like it was a necessary thing to do, or else you would surely have been far too confused over the whole thing's direction. Your transportation to London in 2012 as well as 1897 was meant to feel like a strange experience. Though it wasn't as atmospheric as I might have liked, it still felt far different to anything I had made before. Even while I was recording and editing it - heck even while I was writing it, I knew that this prologue had to be a very different thing to the rest of the project. It just seemed like the right thing to do, to introduce our project with a bang, but a somewhat vague bang that would leave you wanting more afterwards.

The incredible contrasts between the reigns and world of that of Victoria and Elizabeth II warranted comparison or at least mention, I felt, because it would help to understand, by seeing their major differences, just how much Britain had really changed. While it might sound obvious to us that Britain would change so much in 115 years, what is important to remember is that to Britons of 1897, theirs was not an Empire that suggested changing into what we know it to be now. How could Britons possible have known that the next time a diamond jubilee occurred, Britain would be without her Empire and would be, for all intents and purposes, just another power in the world. It seemed an unimaginable climbdown from what had characterised the British experience in the years gone by.

Queen Victoria at her Coronation, 22nd June 1837. 

Queen Victoria photographed after the parade and celebrations of her diamond jubilee had come to an end on 22nd June 1897. Even the very fact that both portraits were taken using vastly different technologies serves as a testament to the era that Victoria ruled in.

By contrast, here is the photograph of Queen Elizabeth II on 2nd June 1952. The regalia is mostly the same as before, but few could have predicted just how different she would be from her predecessor. 

Ruling in a different age meant that Elizabeth II will likely be remembered for her calm control and handling of the breakup of the Empire across the world in the 50's, 60's and 70's. Hers was a necessary conviction: that Britain's time for rule in foreign lands had come to an end, but had she possessed such convictions in the time of her great-great grandmother then posterity's view of her would likely be very different. Here she is pictured at her own diamond jubilee. Since writing she has surpassed Victoria's record for longest serving monarch.

Why is it important to denote the differences between 1897 and 2012? Place yourself in the shoes of the character you played in the prologue episode. If you had been transported through time, into a future where buildings you recognised and a history and culture you felt was familiar was still in place, but that its apparatus, its power and its influence was dramatically different, then you would want to know why. Anyone would. To reach the answer we are met with a number of challenges. These I conveniently skirted around by taking the obvious route - since the curator was me, I could state that the 'curator' had described a method by which we could basically place the course of British history from 1897 onwards into boxes. That involved defining a peak, a stagnant period and a decline. Since you were merely "listening to the curator" I was allowed to make such assertions without having to defend myself. I was able to state that, of these three periods, it was the peak, from 1897 to the outbreak of the First World War, that is the most critical to explain Britain's decline and fall from the top of the world's food chain.

Am I wrong? I would challenge anyone to define a period that had more impact on the fall of the Empire than this one. Of course the obvious solution is to simply say that the war was to blame for the decline. Yet, when firefighters arrive at the scene of a disaster, they don't simply note that fire was to blame and carry on with their lives. For the most part investigators are called in to determine why the fire started and who was to blame for the catastrophe. It is much the same with history - I am bombarded with information about wars and how they changed civilisation. But I wouldn't be much good at my passions and my hobby if I simply noted that war was to blame for such changes. There is more to the fire than just the flames, just like there is more to history than just the wars. I could launch into another narrative of the First World War and examine therein how Britain showed signs of declining here, here and here, or how after this battle it was never the same etc. You don't want that because it is mostly leading you to an obvious conclusion: that it was a great war which dramatically transformed the British Empire and its place in the world. Instead, you want to know why Britain insisted on fighting the war, how  it reached such a desperate decision and where peace no longer became an option. You would want to know who had made the decisions, pulled the levers and created the problems. You would want to make sure that you began your investigation at the right place. That is where I come in.

Essentially, this project is one great work of investigation. We are investigating what Britain was like before WW1. We are investigating why Britain traversed the path that it did. We are investigating who placed Britain towards the path that led to the war and its ultimate collapse. We are investigating if things could have taken a different course; we will also examine the more controversial debate over whether they should have. In short, the prologue was a taste of what's the come. I won't be confronting you with galleries and mysterious curators - not exactly - instead I'll be confronting you with questions, with characters and issues that you did not know where relevant, but which you'll come to see as critical to establishing a true understanding of the era of 1897-1914. Hopefully I didn't scare you off taking the journey with me!

B) The Pitch

Is this the most important question in early modern history? Is it the most important question in all of British history? Is it something you give very little thought to yourself? Would you define British history as more directly impacted by the events of the Second world war, and the events that occurred beyond that? Have you ever spared a thought for what might have been had Britain not entered the First World War? Was Britain's participation in the war worth it in the grand scheme of things, for European civilisation, or was it a terrible mistake? Did their participation in the end make any real difference to the outcome, or would WW1 have progressed exactly as it did even without British involvement? Was there a better path Britain could have chosen in summer 1914; did it ever had the option to choose or was it simply under the influence of fate? Would any option have lessened the decline any moreso than the path Britain did take?

I could go on. These are all questions which flare up again and again when studying the period. Taken individually, I feel they are all of critical importance because they help us look at the whole subject objectively and from the point of view of an investigator, who has to use the evidence he has on hand to decipher the clues and acquire the answer. Some historians have suggested that, as individuals that investigate the period, we're still too close to it emotionally to be capable of making clear and unbiased judgments about its origins, impact or value. It is only in a few more generations, when the final vestiges of the remembering generations are long gone, that we can truly examine the period from an objective pedestal. Whatever your opinion on that, you at least have to consider the era in question: 1897-1914. It is a period which, in my view, contains the most important figures, events, issues, ideas and changes in British history. Perhaps because we still can feel and point to its effects today, I genuinely believe that this overstudied era remains critically important - not just to understand our history, but to understand human behaviour and the complexities and concerns that constitute it.

So this podcast is justified; it will tackle the questions raised in the first paragraph like you've never seen before. It will place you in the era in a way you've never experienced before. It will grab you, challenge you, astound you and make you hungrier to investigate the era moreso than ever before. Furthermore, it will hopefully satisfy you; it will make you feel as though you understand and appreciate what went on a century before. It will make you care, care like you never thought you could, about people and issues that no longer have any apparent relevance, but which, whether you live in Britain or Bolivia, in actual fact shaped your life from the ground up, because you were born into this - this post-war era that your ancestors helped to create. You cannot change what they have done, but you can wrap your head around why they did it. That is my hope.

So this is a window into the era of 1897-1914, though we will certainly be backtracking a tad for the sake of setting the scene. For example, you can't very talk about the Boer War of 1899-1902 without looking at the First Boer War of 1881-82. You can't talk about British politics without looking at the major figures of the mid-19th century that established its founding principles. You can't examine the nuances of the Anglo-Russian relationship without first looking at why it came to be so. All roads to do not lead to WW1, far from it, yet, unless you have walked along these roads with me, I feel the war itself is nearly impossible to explain. So many aspects of the era require understanding, and unless I place them in context, there's very little point in looking at the actual war at all.

Time to put faces to the names of the historians that I regularly consult. This is Christopher Clark, author of the incredible Sleepwalkers and a great man for changing the way we think about the era.

This is William Mulligan, Irish author of numerous WW1 origins articles and my thesis supervisor. It was his idea for me to examine the code of honour and how it impacted Britain in 1914.

John Charmley, author of Splendid Isolation and a major reason why I began this project. His aforementioned book is essential reading for anyone remotely interested in the field.

This is Max Hastings, who you'll remember as the author of numerous WW2 books, but who more recently has dabbled in some WW1 history. He passionately argues that Britain's entry into the First World War was a necessary evil, and that the results which came from it were worth the cost.

Niall Ferguson, well-known author of numerous British history books. His book The Pity of War was a major reason why I felt revisiting WW1 was necessary in my own way.

Sean McMeekin, author of July 1914 which I heavily utilised during my research for the July Crisis Project in summer 2014. His other work The Russian Origins of the First World War is also, as you can tell from the title, massively revisionist and has drawn many notable responses as a result.

Thomas (T.G.) Otte, whose works on July 1914 and varied articles really changed the game over the origins debate. He also writes extensively on British history.

So yes, I am the curator of this gallery. This gallery is my podcast, and all of the photos and paintings represent the varied episodes in which we examined other stories of wars. Within all of those I gave you a beginning, middle and end. I armed you with the knowledge you needed to make sense of the era in question. The First World War, because it is so significant, so defining and so important in human history, requires the repetition of this formula, but on a grander scale. That's why I'm doing this whole project, really. But of course, I have more selfish reasons for undertaking it too...

C) The Plan

I don't feel like the era has been properly appreciated. I also don't feel like I've given it the coverage I'm capable of. These two factors, combined with the fact that I recently completed my MA and am thus armed with the recent resources I had access to and immersed myself in, I feel like this is the best time to revisit the era I only last year brought you to. If I leave it behind now I feel like I will forever regret it. As much as love all shades of history, WW1 and the world that housed it will always possess a certain appeal to me. While it may be well and good to say that I, myself, enjoy the era will very much enjoy this project, I can appreciate that looking back at it even closer than before isn't necessarily something you want to see or hear. You don't want to sound ungrateful, but you were, after all, promised Louis XIV last spring - something that hasn't been offered in podcast format yet and something that you were very much eager to experience.

Louis XIV, as I keep having to remind myself, isn't going anywhere. The reason why I felt obliged to jump into this project, on the other hand, is because I have the advantages of thinking and feeling as though I'm still in MA dissertation mode - this means the era is fresher in my head than it would've been if I'd gone back to it in a year or two's time. What that means for you is that the project itself should flow and listen better than most. You should feel like it's better structured, better realised, than previous efforts. The benefits of having done the dissertation is that I had to really immerse myself in the era to understand the code of honour properly; while doing so I came across so many great stories, so many frankly hilarious people and characters, as well as many under-explored and underrated issues - the code of honour itself for example - that I felt history itself as a discipline necessitated me revisiting it.

I accept that you may be reading this now and thinking 'well that sucks, guess I'll give WDF a break for a year then', but I would implore you to stick around. The last thing you should do is leave because you feel like it'll be more of the same. So much of this is newly researched, newly developed content. I'd say about 10% of it will be stuff that you can directly remember from the July Crisis Project, since even the way I'll be approaching that in #3 will be different. So, what are my aims?

Well, as I said in BGTW #1 A) III; number 1 is to get you more interested in the era, so that you feel for the characters and can better understand their struggles, number 2 is to rebuild the era in your minds, so that you understand the genesis of its issues and problems from a contextual standpoint. Number 3 is closer to my heart, I want you all to be able to experience Britain’s political and diplomatic crises from 1897-1914 as the British statesman himself experienced them; this means we won’t be giving much attention to other states unless I feel it’s necessary for background info, but that instead the British Empire will be our lead protagonist. Number 4, I want to give you a fresh interpretation of why Britain went to war, since I have heard and read many accounts of that event since the July Crisis Project, and I feel revisiting one of the most pivotal actors within it is not just justified, it is necessary. Finally, in number 5  I want to show what might have been, and this feeds into the layout of the project that I’ll explain in a minute, but I want to demonstrate that Britain’s entry into the war was neither necessary or beneficial to the British, and that the other avenues they could have taken may have landed their empire in a far better position for the rest of the century.

Of course this is ambitious, some might even say crazy and unrealistic. But just as before, and with nearly everything else I do here, I ask for you patience and support. It has already been fantastic. Thanks so much to all of you for the donations; you know who you are, whether it's a one off donation or you availed of the newer monthly payment options, all of it goes a long way. While I would love to work less and podcast more, reality means that I cannot give this podcast all the time I want. Though I'm simply not as brave as Jamie Redfern, who recently announced that he'll be becoming a professional podcaster to fund his PhD, the financial assistance I get from you guys is an important pillar of support, because it helps me believe that I can do this and make enough money to perhaps ask for less hours in work. It all makes a difference. You may also notice that the FB page has been a tad quiet, and that aside from the actual episode being diligently released every Monday, Zack seems suprisingly quiet as of late. All will be revealed soon enough my history friend, but suffice to say I have been rather busy!

As always, if you have any question, please don't hesitate to contact me. I do my best with replying to emails, but I always love seeing them appear in the inbox regardless. Please continue to rate us and review us on iTunes, we're doing well at the moment on the History category. Also your support for the FB has been swell too! So keep spreading the word; that despite everything, Zack just hasn't got the hint and continues to torture his listeners with WW1!

Thanksssss! :)

Monday, 7 September 2015

A Masters Dissertation

Hello history friends! I am so excited to present this project to you all at last. Finally you'll get to hear the audiobook version of my dissertation, complete with a preface just like in real audiobooks! I really hope you enjoy it, and if you want to share any love please continue to BEFIT and generally spread the word, as you have all done so well so far, as well as donate to the podcast if you can, since the process that led to the actual completion of this rather thick hardback copybook has been an immensely expensive one indeed.

17,000 or so words, countless hours and at least a year's worth of prep later - here it is!

So what does it all mean? 'Honour at Stake' is the official title of the dissertation, but what can you expect from the miniseries? Expect to be pleasantly surprised, since I'm sure the code of honour among states isn't something you expected me to look into and do a dissertation on. I hope you'll give it a listen even if you don't think at first that you'll find it especially interesting. I'll admit at the start I really didn't think I'd find it as fascinating as I did and do now. The code of honour actually permeates through everything that British statesmen did in the 19th and 20th centuries, especially before WW1. Its influence is very underrated in terms of it being studied with the outbreak of the First World War in mind, so that's the void I tried to fill here. I took the point of view of the British for personal reasons as well as ease of sources and language barriers, but it is an issue that was keenly felt across Europe and the world. As a factor in British involvement in the First World War I feel like it really is something that can help us understand not just the context of the day, but also the psyche of the statesmen and officials that operated with it in mind in 1914.

To lose honour meant that the prestige of your Empire would dip, this meant that other states would capitalise on your weakness by moving against you, and soon your entire states' apparatus would crumble. This, of course, was the worst case scenario espoused by those that argued for war in favour of the code of honour, but there was another significant segment of British society that argued the opposite - that British honour depended on its continuing neutrality and aloofness from continental affairs, especially a war that nobody could discern a direct British interest in.

If this sounds like something you'd be interested in, then I really hope you'll listen to the 6 part miniseries. By splitting it into 6 episodes, I feel like I can better tell the story without you all getting too overwhelmed or bored with the whole concept, but don't worry, you won't have to wait any longer than you would have for the 4 episodes - I'm just that generous! Let me know what you all thought of it, and perhaps if you're really good I'll finally reveal what the dealio is with the huge special I've been planning for months. Trust me, it's gonna be a big one!

Please remember to support WDF by using the acronym BEFIT - you're already doing a bit of it by even reading this blog! Also remember that WDF and I are dependent upon your generosity, and if you think you can afford to support us monetarily once off or even every month with a small amount then I would be eternally grateful. Because of you guys WDF has been able to keep going, and because of that I am not going anywhere, but greasing the wheels and being able to expand and pay for the expansion of the podcast would not go amiss. If this sounds like something you'd be able to do, check out the subscription plans or click the once off donation button. Plans start from as little as 1 euro a month, and you can cancel any time! Whatever you decide, thankssss for being my history friend and for supporting When Diplomacy Fails.


Monday, 25 May 2015


Something of an abnormal post here, for a TALK episode that will follow over the next few days...

Today we're looking at the Battle of Gallipoli, this is the place to find all the photos and pics from the trip to Gallipoli that I mentioned in the TALK episode you have hopefully listened to already (ETA on the episode is 28/52015), so I hope you'll have a gander at these photos here, and perhaps get a better feel for what happened this time 100 years ago in the process.

Ottoman Empire over the years 

First of all, the facts. The Ottoman Empire entered the war against the allies in early November 1914, after weeks of wrangling on both sides. Following its clear position, the question then was how to deal with this strategically placed, yet somewhat 'sick' new enemy in the Central Powers camp. For some in the British camp, the idea emerged of an ambitious plan to knock the Ottomans out of the war and then drive south from its captured territories to Germany.

View of the peninsula from satellite; note the narrowness of the waterway and thus its critical strategic location. The southern, European facing side was where most action occurred.

To counter this, Germany had to invest yet more men and materials into the flagging empire to ensure that its weak spots could withstand the kind of offensives that the allies were planning. Both sides worked at a furious pace, but it wasn't until early 1915 that the idea of attacking Turkey was seriously considered, mainly because, in the allied camp, the Western Front of Flanders was still the main event, and the French government didn't under any circumstances want British or indeed French soldiers moved away from the front and tasked with some barely conceived, harebrained scheme on the other side of Europe. Opinions began to shift with the onset of deadlock and trench warfare in the west though, as trenches from the Swiss border to the sea were established after the First Battle of Ypres in late November 1914, and from that point on the objective was to punch a hole in the enemy's defences that would end such a stagnation of military affairs.

Hindenburg at Tannenburg, the greatest Russian defeat in living memory, late August 1914.

Devastation left behind following the First Battle of Ypres, November 1914.

Stabilisation of the fronts: the red line denotes the positions of the trench system that served as the de facto limits of success for both sides in early 1915. The impetus for both sides was thus breaking the deadlock, and the allies looked to Germany's newest ally to achieve this.

So, the attention was turned to the Ottoman Empire- more specifically, its critical waterway known as the Dardanelles. The plan being to sail up the Straits and attack Constantinople. If it sounded too easy, that's because it was, but in November 1914 a small engagement by the Royal Navy had knocked out a large fort at the entrance. The event was celebrated by command, but it had the double negative effect of both lulling Britain into a false sense of security and demonstrating to the Turks that a LOT of work had to be done where their defences were concerned. So, over the following weeks the Turks set to work, and with German aid had established a formidable series of defences along the entrance to the Dardanelles, while the allies- secure in the belief that the endeavour would not be overtly taxing- grossly underestimated the gravity of what was about to face them. When the naval attack failed, and the allies lost 6 vessels to the Turkish shore guns, the decision was made to call off the attack. Already, pressure was on Sir Winston Churchill, a principle architect of the plan, and David Lloyd George, a major advocate of the idea, to show results, and the decision was made to capture the peninsula first, and then bring the force of the navy to bear once the guns were forcibly silenced.

Sir Ian Hamilton, the man tasked with commanding the allies and achieving his objectives at Gallipoli. He, like many of his superiors, has a lot to answer for.

General Liman Von Sanders, Germany's deadliest import where the allies were concerned. In terms of bolstering the Turks and providing them with much needed advice and assistance, von Sanders' role in the Gallipoli campaign is highly underrated and deserves to be re-examined.

Lieutenant-General William 'Birdy' Birdwood, commander of the ANZAC forces. Though born in India and somewhat foreign to the ANZACs he commanded, most grew fond of him in their time in Gallipoli. 

For Sir Ian Hamilton, commander of the allies forces about to take their places and invade the Gallipoli Peninsula, his was a task filled with uncertainty. The best information about the peninsula came from outdated French made maps sourced from the Crimean Wars over 50 years before, while secrecy was not watertight and Ian even held an interview with an Egyptian newspaper over the necessity of a landing before the campaign began, as if to wave a giant flag in the face of Liman von Sanders and warn the Turks of their impending arrival. As if he hadn't had enough time to prepare the region already for just such a campaign as the allies were planning, von Sanders now had proof from the horse's mouth that these very defences would soon be put to the test. For Sir Ian Hamilton though, such concerns as predictability or preparation did not seem within his vocabulary. A buzzsaw awaited those he commanded as April neared its end and soldiers massed in eager expectation just off the Straits on the island of Lemnos.

The major plan involved landings at Cape Helles, the southern end of the peninsula. These were to be undertaken by British and Irish soldiers of the 29th Division. Their objective was to storm ashore and seize the high ground- a tactic that will become familiar in the campaign. The Cape Helles landing area stretched across the length of the tip, and so was divided into numerous beaches;
S, V, W, X and Y, with V and W constituting the 'main event' of the landings in the region, and the others designed to provide support. However, once they had landed at dawn on 24th April, it became clear that the plan was flawed. The limited opposition faced by those that landed on all beaches other than V and W meant that the latter two landings lagged behind what were meant to be diversions.

The planned landings at Cape Helles, note W and V at the southermost end of the peninsula.

Detailed map of the landings and the objectives. Note how apparently close everything is. Sometimes we forget that metres separated the men from the enemy and their mission, not miles, and yet it was no easier a task because of this. Formidable defences at V and W beaches prevented much progress, while at S beach the objectives were completed within a few hours.

Some critical commanders had been killed during the Cape Helles landings, which further compromised the venture. Reinforcements were diverted to V beach in an attempt to force the area, but the task was far too great. Names of objectives like Hill 138 and Hill 141 would become the bane of the soldiers, who simply hadn't been prepared for what lay ahead. The Turks were entrenched, and in some cases, to ensure the element of 'surprise', no preliminary bombardment took place to cover the British landings, the result was carnage. In many ways it's hard to imagine the reality of what faced those that landed at V beach, so the best way is to show you the photos I took of the area. These are the first batch of the photos I took, having been in Turkey from 10-14th May 2015; these ones are of the Cape Helles memorial site:

Cape Helles Memorial Site

Monument, literally ten minutes walk from V Beach, with stunning surrounding views

Close up, each side had a different dedication

Names, names and more names surround the walls both inside and outside the monument, denoting the butcher's bill for the Cape Helles landings. Not a Twamley in sight, unless I missed one. For a few strange moments I felt unusually disappointed, until I realised exactly what a Twamley on the wall would have meant- that he would have died just as pointlessly as every other name here.

Stunning views in all directions, since we're literally on the tip of the Peninsula.

Beautiful sunshine and the coast of Turkey proper in the distance. Note also the ruins of the fort; that was the fort which blew up after the allied direct hit in November 1914. It essentially guards the entrance to the Dardanelles waterway. Upon landing here the 29th division was met with fire from the coast in the distance as well as from this hill that I took the picture from.

This is the land atop the cliffs that the Turks would have ran across on V Beach. It felt strangely eerie to be in this place, where 100 years before men would have fought for their lives.

Below is V Beach itself. Even now it's hard to believe it was so beautiful, considering the absolute hell that the whole region meant for so many men. Note how people were able to just casually walk up its edge- a task impossible for men just like these folks in the picture 100 years before.

The very same trenches atop V Beach that would have inhabited the defending Turks

This is the view that would have greeted the 29th division as they landed on the beach; steep cliffs impossible to scale from the sea, and granting the defender all the advantages in the world. There was very little in the way of cover where we were standing, and I can only imagine the fear that would have gripped men just like me once they realised the gravity of their task.

Perhaps because of the task's impossibility, it's not surprising to find a cemetery so close to the actual beach where so many men would have landed. Within were buried the remnants of the 29th division of Brits and Irish, an whoever else was unfortunate enough to have to support them. At least 600 men are estimated to be buried here, but some records put it at 800.

Another view of the cliffs that would be scaled by the 29th; the entrance to the cemetery on the right

The entire graveyard was pristine. Birds were singing and the sun beamed down, it was almost possible to forget that 100 years ago, this very ground was the last place of rest for so many as the battle waged overhead.

Another view of the cemetery on V Beach

This was the moment I almost cried. Having felt strangely emotional up to this point, seeing this grave among the others, I read that Mr J. Kiernan from the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, at 21 years old, had died at this spot. It wasn't the fact that he seemed so like me, it was the fact that this happened 100 years ago to the day that I was looking at this grave- that really brought it home. I knelt down and said a small prayer, not really sure what I was praying for, but just in awe of the fact that here, on 11th May 2015 I was able to see J. Kiernan and that I also had a chance to pay my respects.

And some other miscellaneous photos of the French cemetery, the Turkish monument etc.

The French cemetery

We counted at least 3,000 graves 

Stunning white monument; the beauty of it all suggests that it won't ever be forgotten, yet the French contribution is very rarely discussed these days

The major Turkish monument on the primary plateau. Note the line of flags where my friend tried to get a better look and had a whistle blown at him to clear off; the Turks take their monument very seriously

This is the sight that greets you as you walk to the primary plateau above

Here is the mural that would be directly behind you in the first photo. Once again, Mustafa Kemal Attaturk takes center stage, and not for the last time

The 57th Memorial Monument, dedicated to the memory of that division who suffered catastrophic losses during the Gallipoli Campaign. It was this division that was the first to answer the call to defend their homeland against the invading ANZACs at Anzac Cove, and the unit who Attaturk is supposed to have said 'I do not order you to fight, I order you to die'. 

Old Man Monument, so-called after its depiction of the last surviving soldier from Gallipoli, Hüseyin Kaçmaz. Also depicted is his granddaughter, who regularly visited the site with him. In 1993, he met with the last surviving ANZAC soldier, a New Zealander, and the two shook hands. These two men, who would have both been in their early 100's, were an unforgettable symbol of the past, and yet they made their peace with that past, setting an example for the rest of the world in the process.

Another statue of Attaturk, this one a tad more controversial, since it sits beside the New Zealand monument (not pictured here, it's behind the back of photographer). When the NZ monument was commissioned, all seemed well and good, yet a few years later the Turkish government had inexplicably erected their own status of Attaturk right beside theirs. Thanks to the Danish students accompanying us on the trip for filling me in on those details. The fellows posing for the picture are the graduates of the Turkish navy, or so we reckoned anyway. Note how seriously the statue of Attaturk is taken; we were dared to jump in and photobomb them, but we weren't that brave... 

Unfortunately, Cape Helles was not the only landing site. Where would Gallipoli be without ANZAC cove and everything awful that landing suggested? Anzac Cove was designed to support the landing at Cape Helles by cutting the Ottoman communications in the hills behind the Turks. Once in place, the Anzacs were to hold the high ground and ready themselves to link up with the successful Cape Helles landings, once the latter had cleared away the opposition with relative ease, because don't forget chaps, you'll be landing relatively unopposed. The navy will blow Jonny Turk to pieces, and even if not, just give him a good run with the bayonet and he'll scatter! The reality, of course, was a poles apart from what the Anzacs were told to expect, and as a result they walked into yet another buzzsaw.

The landings at Anzac Cove, with Pugg's Plateau serving as a major initial objective, and the higher hills in the background serving as the further objectives. Nobody stopped to imagine that the Turks would expect a landing, or that they would realise the value of the high ground.

The actual progress that was made, compared with the objective in the distance.

What follows are further photos of Anzac Cove, its beaches, cemeteries and related images, taken on 12 May 2015;

Anzac Cove, angle 1

Anzac Cove, angle 2. In the distance is Suvla Bay, another landing that consumed countless lives

Anzac Cove, angle 3. Still I am struck by the beauty of it all; if I didn't know what had happened here, I'd swear this was a holiday resort. The sun was very strong, and that was only standing still, so it doesn't take much imagination to suppose that the men that fought here would have had huge problems with dehydration and sunstroke, not to mention disease.

The infamous ridges of Anzac Cove, only now do they appear so incredibly daunting, seeing them in real life is even more incredible. How the men managed to scale this is beyond me; how they looked at it and thought to themselves that it was a task within the realm of possibility is beyond me also

Another angle of the ridges that would have given invaluable cover to the defending Turks, with the Anzacs having to rush up the space in between, facing fire on both sides as they did so.

Anzac Cove, angle 4. The birds were signing so loudly that at some stages we couldn't hear our guide. I'd like to think that the birds somehow knew what had happened here 100 years before. That they knew the pain and anguish men in this area once went through, and that to compensate, they sing extra loudly, to try and cover up what was once hell on earth for so many, and a meat grinder for so many others. I got the sense that, having endured what it had a century before, there was no pain left, and that now there was only this startling beauty

Looking down south from where we were standing atop Anzac Cove, so in other words having turned 180 degrees from the above picture. That crop of grey hair belongs to our lovely tour guide, who had lived in the region and given tours just like ours for decades. It is such obviously beautiful scenery, and even now is treated as almost holy ground. To think that 100 years before it would have been a hive of activity, as the allies attempted to supply their Anzac brethren now ashore.

Next are the photos I took of Shrapnel Valley, which during the times of the landings 100 years ago looked like this;

Nowadays, it's a pristine cemetery and grounds, with freshly cut green grass, marble white headstones and the customary dedication at the leading monument which reads 'Their Name Liveth For Evermore'

Shrapnel Valley Cemetery and Memorial Grounds

Plugge's Plateau, and the view of Anzac Cove that I depicted earlier in this blog, were accessed by following the remnants of the trenches that way and up a seriously steep hill.

It's difficult not to feel a tad emotional about this one; his parents bringing this slab of rock from so many miles away in Oz, just so their late son could be laid to rest next to his native ground. I can only imagine how difficult that journey must have been for the family, I can only hope it was therapeutic to arrive here at last and put it here in its rightful place. 

This epitaph was especially striking for me. Some tried to find significance in the loss by emphasising honour, duty or respect for one's mates. This one is heart wrenchingly tragic in its truths. All his friends would have, following this loss, was his picture on the wall, because friends, despite the honour and heroism involved, could not take pride in this man's sacrifice. They didn't want a hero, they just wanted their friend back, and now they'd never see him again.

I tried to get a feel for what this place once was by taking a good few shots of the surrounding countryside. Note the hills on this side, as well as the other sides. No wonder it was named Shrapnel Valley, the entire region was a funnel for soldiers to walk through and somehow survive, while being attacked on all sides by bombs, heavy machine guns and explosive shells that inflicted such horrible wounds as only shrapnel could.

Hills surround the cemetery...

Headstones line the grounds

He died for his country's honour, an interesting concept when one considers the grief stricken tragic plea of the other headstone. It just goes to show that people will try to find significance in the loss in a number of ways; some will never accept that the loss was worth it, others will cling desperately to the idea that it was. The poor people that had to endure this.

We next visited Plugge's Plateau (pronounced 'Pluggy'), which served as a major base of operations for the Anzacs after it was captured within a few hours of the landing.

How it looked back then, note the tents strewn across the so-called command center where Colonel Arthur Plugge, commander of the New Zealand Auckland Battalion established his HQ

Plugge's is the smallest of the cemeteries in the region, dedicated to only 21 Anzac deaths

Despite this, it's no less important than the others, nor is it any less beautiful. We visited it on our way to take the numerous photos of Anzac Cove.

We then visited the cemetery at Ari Burnu, the name once given to Anzac Cove, before the Turkish Government officially renamed it after the Anzacs in 1985. Its the most impressive site in the region, and was once the area where the Anzac Day Dawn Service was held, until it was moved in 2000 to a an even larger area that we'll encounter a bit later in this blog.

ANZAC resting place

The striking white monuments that are the signature of the memorial sites here

The first of 7 graves chosen for their character

So simple; private yet public, short yet sweet. Epitaphs like these emphasise the human element that is so critical to preserve, so that these names do not become mere statistics

The only Jewish headstone I encountered in my travels

We also visited Lone Pine Cemetery, where the ANZAC ceremony a few months ago had been held. Our guide told us that only two weeks before we arrived, 10,000 people had flocked to the area to commemorate ANZAC day 100 years on. It was a truly breathtaking experience. 

Lone Pine Cemetery, 1920.

21 years after the battle; the first ceremony to take place on the new grounds, Lone Pine, 1936. Recently constructed is the Monument to the Missing, a beautiful idea that ensures even those who have not found a final resting place can still have their collective memory respected here.

Lone Pine today, and no that is not the pine it is named after (apparently many people presume that it is); that tree no longer stands, but it is a nice dedication nonetheless.

Lone Pine view from the step up, with back facing the monument.

Inscription of the wall down from the monument itself. The inscription reads 'To the Glory of God and in lasting memory of 3,268 Australian soldiers who fought on Gallipoli in 1915 and have no known graves, and 456 New Zealand soldiers whose names are not recorded in other areas of the Peninsula but who fell in the Anzac Area and have no known graves; and also of 960 Australians and 252 New Zealanders who, fighting on Gallipoli in 1915, incurred mortal wounds or sickness and found burial at Sea.

Within the open door of the Monument to the Missing were a countless artifacts dedicated at the time of the ANZAC ceremony weeks before. Some contained pleas to distant relatives, some calls to late ancestors, others thanked them for their sacrifice, and hoped that they could be at peace.

Even after all that had been lost, the allies had not given up on the idea of Gallipoli. A grand offensive was planned for August, whereby the allies hoped to attack on all fronts and mount a landing at Suvla Bay, a little bit north of Anzac Cove. The entire operation, unfortunately, was filled with breathtaking carelessness and criminal stupidity on the allied side, as generals with no grasp of the situation repeatedly send wave after wave of young men to their deaths in a hopeless quest to dislodge the advantaged Turk. This was the Battle of the Nek, so named after the bottleneck that the ridge appeared to take the shape of. One war correspondent, Charles Bean, compared it to 'attacking a frying pan from the handle'. It was madness, and it was meant only as part of another objective, yet the original accompanying objective was never completed. When word came that this attack was to go ahead anyway, many believed it was a death sentence. It even got off to an awful start, with the preliminary bombardment finishing 7 minutes earlier than it was meant to.

General Sir Alexander Godley, the man in charge of the offensives at the battle of the Nek in early August 1915. Responsible for neglecting his troops, to the extent that he commissioned wave after wave of slaughter at the Battle of the Nek, not to mention elsewhere, Godley would be privately vilified by his troops, yet publicly his career flourished. He would lead the ANZACs again on the Western Front, and in late 1917 would again come under scrutiny for ordering the continuation of  the Third Battle of Ypres, also known as Passchendaele. Yet, unfortunately, Godley wasn't the only one doing so, he was part of the cancer of careless within the British Army, he did not invent it or play the sole role in its continuation. He has a lot to answer for, nonetheless, and his name should be among the other controversial ones such as Douglas Haig and Lord Kitchener for what he did at the Battle of the Nek, where the flower of Australia, not to mention many other nations, was trampled upon and slaughtered for no gain whatsoever, save another gleaming memorial

This meant that, rather than facing at least semi-stunned or lesser prepared defenders when the time to go over the top came, the allies would face prepared, well-dug in and incredulous Turkish defenders, who couldn't believe that their enemy would attack at such a disadvantage. The guns, not just of the defenders here, but of other Turks placed a few hundred meters away on nearby hills, were able to rain down murderous fire from the outset. When the first wave were all wiped out, the second wave went ahead anyway, as did the the third. There was definite protest, to the extent that only part of the 4th wave went ahead, but still, it was nowhere near what should have been done. The command were so blatantly detached from the reality on the ground that condemning their actions doesn't come close to justice. They threw men to their deaths with a psychotic, despicable sense of laxness that in any other place, at any other time, they would be murderers. Yet here, on this piece of land, they remained in control of it all.

It makes me so angry to read and hear about, and there is a real sense of tragedy in this cemetery;

Much like everything else in Gallipoli, this cemetery wasn't always so pristine...
Here was the site where Charles Bean, war correspondent for the ANZACs, found the human bones (visible in this photo) of the Battle of the Nek in 1919, and they mercifully led to the creation of a proper cemetery (below under construction) 

Cemetery of the Nek under construction, 1923.

Plaque of dedication to those that fell

Artists' impression of the Nek, 1924

What follows are additional photos I encountered/took myself;

Turkish soldiers, equipped with the latest model of German Maxim gun that proved so devastating

Lancashire Fusiliers on their way to W beach, where most would meet their end. So substantial were their losses that W Beach is often referred to as Lancashire Landing in some histories

French soldiers at Cape Helles

ANZAC soldiers land at Pugge's Plateau

Smashed portion of one of the forts tasked with defending ANZAC Cove

One of the trench systems atop the Nek

Such systems stretched underground, as one side attempted to overtake the other

One of the many demonstrations of what such warfare would have been like 100 years ago, with soldiers sometimes as close as 8 meters to one another's lines. This was taken just before we got the ferry across to Cannakkele, on the Turkish side of the Dardanelles (and where that horse from the film Troy is held) 

Just in case you thought I was lying, here is the horse!

So yes, that's going to do I think. I know this has been something of a long-winded, photo packed post, and I'm sure the episode will be something similar, knowing myself and Sean! I feel like it was worth it though, like this is a story that needs to be told. If you can care about Gallipoli, or at least don't think of it as some event unimportant or uninteresting to you, then I have accomplished something here. Trust me when I say, having visited these place, Gallipoli is a story that needs to be told, and it is a story just as relevant today as it was a century ago. It is about youth, naivety, grief, loss, sacrifice, terror, death and tragedy. It is the place that a dominion became a nation. It is also a place forever associated with failure, and symbolic of what happens when you underestimate your enemy. The real tragedy in my view is that the allies would do it all again the following July. With just as little preparation, with just as little care for men's lives and with just as little 'success', the Somme eclipsed Gallipoli for all the wrong reasons, and claimed the lives of men whose only crime was to volunteer (or be conscripted) into an army which they believed would use their life, not waste it.

The 4 lads in Gallipoli, when we weren't drinking beer, we were here! From left to right is Caelan, Jack, Adam and myself. Good thing the world didn't require us to do what our generation, 100 years ago did... I don't know what would have happened if it had! 

The Irish Gallipoli crew, seated here at the base of the Turkish monument. From left to right Kristina, YanLi, Val, Adam, Liam, Caelan, ME, Dawn, Lia, Jack and our dear leader (and my dissertation supervisor) William Mulligan. Thanks for the fun times folks!

I shudder to think of what the youth of today would do, if faced with a situation like that today. So many of the graves I saw contained the names of men whose lives had ended before they had even reached the stage of mine. I, at 23, was older than most of the casualties I came across. Yet, having seen what I've seen, I know deep down that I would never have it within me to go over the top as they did. I am sincerely thankful that nobody in our generation will ever have to. I, personally want those I love; my friends, family and other half, to have more to remember me by than, as that ringing epitaph said my 'photo on the wall'.

Thanksssssssssss for reading history friends! Thanks also to Lia Brazil for letting me steal her photos (my phone had died) and to this website for their great advice and pics: