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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And some other miscellaneous photos of the French cemetery, the Turkish monument etc.
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'
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.
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.
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.
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.
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;
What follows are additional photos I encountered/took myself;
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.
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: