Battle of Gallipoli

World War I

'''Battle of Gallipoli'''
ConflictWorld War I
DateFebruary 19, 1915 - January 8, 1916
PlaceGallipoli peninsula, Turkey
ResultTurkish victory
Combatants
Britain, France, India, Australia,
New Zealand
Turkey
Commanders
Sir Ian Hamilton Otto Liman von Sanders,
Mustafa Kemal
Strength
5 Divisions (initial)
14 Divisions (final)
6 Divisions (initial)
14 Divisions (final)
Casualties
141,000251,000

The Battle of Gallipoli, known in Turkey as the Battle of Çannakale, took place on the Turkish peninsula of Gallipoli in World War I during 1915. A combined Allied operation was mounted in order to eventually capture the Ottoman capital of Constantinople. The attempt failed, and an estimated 131,000 soldiers were killed and 262,000 wounded.

Table of contents
1 Prelude
2 Naval attacks
3 Invasion
4 The Early Battles
5 August Offensive
6 Evacuation
7 Aftermath

Prelude

Russia, one of the Allied powers during the war, had problems with its supply routes over sea. The Baltic Sea was locked by the German navy, while the Black Sea's only entrance was through the Bosporus, which was controlled by the Ottoman Empire.

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 Allied side.

A first proposal to attack Turkey had already been suggested by a French minister in November 1914, but it was not supported. Later that month, First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill. put forward his first plans for a naval attack on the Dardanelles. A plan for an attack and invasion of the Gallipoli peninsula was eventually approved by the British cabinet in January 1915. The British Minister of War, Lord Kitchener appointed General Sir Ian Hamilton to command the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force that was to carry out the mission.


An overview of the Gallipoli Peninsula. The dotted lines approximately mark the furthest advance of Allied Forces.

Naval attacks

On February 19, the first attack on the Dardanelles began when a large fleet of British and French vessels, including the British battleship HMS Queen Elizabeth, bombarded Turkish artillery along the coast.

Although the attack was politically successful - Bulgaria stopped negotiations with Germany, Greece offered support, and Italy also seemed keen to enter the war on Allied side - the military effect was very small. Continued bombardments and landings on February 25 also proved unsuccessful.

A new attack was launched on March 18, targeted at the narrowest point of the Dardanelles where the straits were just a mile wide. A massive fleet containing no less than 16 battleships was initially successful, eliminating many Turkish artillery batteries. However, an undetected minefield laid along the Asian shore by the Turkish minelayer Nusret, sunk or damaged a number of ships as they turned about. Three battleships were sunk; the British HMS Ocean and HMS Irresistible, and the French Bouvet, while the battlecruiser HMS Inflexible and the French battleships Suffren and Gaulois were badly damaged.

Invasion

After the failure of the naval attacks, it had become clear that ground troops were necessary to eliminate the Turkish mobile artillery. This would allow mine sweepers to clear the waters for the larger vessels.

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 British 29th Division, the Royal Naval Division (RND) and the French Corps expéditionnaire d'Orient under his command. Hamilton's invasion force was opposed by the Turkish 5th Army, under the command of a German, General Otto Liman von Sanders, comprising 6 divisions totalling 84,000 men, which had to defend both shores of the Dardanelles.

The invasion plan of 25 April, 1915 was for the 29th Division to land at Helles on the tip of the peninsula and then advance upon the forts at Kilitbahir. The Anzacs were to land north of Gaba Tepe on the Aegean coast from where they could advance across the peninsula and prevent retreat from or reinforcement of Kilitbahir. The French made a diversionary landing at Kum Kale which lies at the entrance to the Dardanelles on the Asian shore. There was also a one-man diversion by Bernard Freyberg of the RND at Bulair on the neck of the peninsula.

Anzac

The Anzac covering force, the 3rd Brigade of the Australian 1st Division, began to go ashore shortly before dawn at 4.30 am on April 25. The intended landing zone was a broad front centered about a mile north of Gaba Tepe on a stretch of coast dubbed "Brighton Beach". For reasons that are debated to this day, the landing went awry and the boats concentrated about a mile and a half further north than intended in a shallow, nameless cove between Ari Burnu to the north and Hell Spit to the south.

The Anzacs were confronted by a treacherous, confusing tangle of ravines and spurs that descended from the heights of the Sari Bair range to the sea. At first the landing was only lightly opposed by scattered Turkish units however Mustafa Kemal, commanding the 19th Division, perceiving the threat posed by the landings, rushed reinforcements to the area in what became a race for the high ground.

The contest for the heights was decided on the main ridge line where the Anzacs and Turks fought over a knoll called Baby 700. The position changed hands a number of times on the first day before the Turks, having the advantage of the higher ground on Battleship Hill, took final possession which they never relinquished. Once the Anzac advance was checked, the Turks counter-attacked, trying to force the invaders back to the shore, but failed to dislodge them from the foothold they had gained. A trench perimeter quickly developed and a bloody stalemate ensued until August.

Helles

The Helles landing was to be made by the 29th Division under the command of Major General Aylmer Hunter-Weston, on fives beaches in an arc about the tip of the peninsula, designated from east to west as S, V, W, X and Y beach.

At the extremities of the arc, on S, X and Y beaches, there was little opposition but the opportunity was not exploited. 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 as Turkish reinforcements arrived.

The main landings were made at V Beach, beneath the old Seddulbahir 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 Hampshire Regiment and the Royal Munster Fusiliers was landed from a converted collier, the River Clyde, which was run aground beneath the fortress so that the troops could disembark directly via ramps to the shore. Machine guns were mounted on the forecastle of the ship to provide covering fire. 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. At both beaches the British infantry were massacred by the Turkish defenders. The troops emerging one by one from the sally ports on the River Clyde presented perfect targets to the machine guns in the Seddulbahir fort.

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 1000. The battalions that landed at V Beach suffered about 70% casualties. Five awards of the Victoria Cross were made amongst the Lancashires at W Beach, six Victoria Crosses were awarded amongst the infantry and sailors at the V Beach landing.

The Early Battles

On the afternoon of April 27, 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 April 28, the British, now supported by the French on the right of the line, intended to capture Krithia in what became known as the 1st 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 Seddulbahir village, captured after heavy fighting on the 26th. The attack ground to a halt around 6pm with a gain of some ground but the objective of Krithia village was not reached. The Allies put 13,500 men into the fight and suffered 3000 casualties in one day. After the battle, the Allied trenches lay about halfway between the Helles headland and Krithia village. With Turkish oppositioning 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 May 1 and May 3 were repulsed despite breaking through the French defences.

The first attempt at an offensive at Anzac took place on the evening of May 2 when New Zealand and Australian Division commander, General Godley, ordered the Australian 4th 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 May 3, having suffered about 1000 casualties.

Believing Anzac to be secure, Hamilton moved two brigades, the Australian 2nd Infantry Brigade and the New Zealand Infantry Brigade, to the Helles front to take part in the Second Battle of Krithia on May 8. 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 May 19. The plan was to simply overwhelm the defenders by sheer weight of numbers — 30 to 40,000 Turks attacked 10,000 Australians and New Zealanders — but the attack was held off and the Turkish casualties were so severe that a truce was organised for May 24 in order to bury the masses of dead lying in no-mans land.

In the Third Battle of Krithia on June 4 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 4500 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 June 28. This battle advanced the British line along the left (Aegean) flank of the battlefield.

See Also: Second Battle of Krithia — Third Battle of Krithia — Battle of Gully Ravine

August Offensive

See Also: Battle of Sari Bair

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 August 6 a fresh landing of two infantry divisions was to be made at Suvla Bay, 3 miles 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 was only lightly opposed but the British commander, 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 attack at Anzac was preceded on the evening of August 6 by a diversionary assault on the Turkish trenches at Lone Pine by the infantry brigades of the Australian 1st Division. This attack 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 August 7 but was not able to seize the summit until the following night. This delay had fatal consequences for another supporting attack on the morning of August 7; 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 old Turkish trenches.

The attack on Hill 971 never eventuated. The attacking force of the Australian 4th Infantry Brigade (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. 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 August 21 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 August 29, the battle for the Sari Bair heights, and indeed the battle for the peninsula, was effectively over.

See Also: Battle of Lone PineBattle of the Nek — Battle of Chunuk Bair — Battle of Scimitar HillBattle of Hill 60

Evacuation

Onset of winter. Turks get German artillery.

Aftermath

To be done.

Casualties

Gallipoli casualties (compiled from various sources)
 Died Wounded Total
Australia 8,709 19,441 28,150
New Zealand 2,701 4,852 7,553
Britain 21,255 52,230 73,485
France ( estimated ) 10,000 17,000 27,000
India 1,358 3,421 4,779
Newfoundland 49 93 142
Total Allies 44,072 97,037 141,109
Turkey 86,692 164,617 251,309

Amongst the dead of the battle was the brilliant young chemist Henry Moseley. Also the poet Rupert Brooke, serving with the Royal Naval Division, died shortly before the invasion.


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