February 19, 1915

The Battle of Galipoli begins with a bombardment of the combined French and British fleet.

The French pre-dreadnaught Battleship Bouvet sunk at the Dardanelles after striking a mine. The lower photos show the ship sinking. "In two or three minutes she sank in deep water just north of Erenkeui, carrying nearly the whole of her crew to the bottom. The cries of the men dragged down with her, or struggling in the water as they were swept downstream, sounded over the strait."

By the spring of 1915, combat on the Western Front had sunk into stalemate. Enemy troops stared at each other from a line of opposing trenches that stretched from the English Channel to the Swiss border. Neither opponent could outflank its enemy resulting in costly and unproductive direct attacks on well-fortified defenses. The war of movement that both sides had predicted at the beginning of the conflict had devolved into deadly stagnation.

Allied leaders, including Winston Churchill and Lord Kitchener, scoured their maps to find a way around the impasse. The Dardenelles Strait leading from the Mediterranean to Istanbul caught their eye. A successful attack in this area could open a sea lane to the Russians through the Black Sea, provide a base for attacking the Central Powers through what Churchill described as the "soft underbelly of Europe", and divert enemy attention from the Western Front.

The Campaign was a fiasco, poorly planned and badly executed. It began in February 1915 with an unsuccessful naval attempt to force a passage up the Dardenelles. The flotilla retreated after sustaining heavy damage from Turkish guns lining both shores and from mines strewn across the channel.

In April, a landing on the Gallipoli Penninsula attempted to secure the shores and silence the Turkish guns. Trouble brewed from the beginning. Amphibious operations were a new and unperfected form of warfare leading to poor communications, troop deployment and supply. The Turks entrenched themselves on the high ground pouring artillery and machine gun fire down upon the hapless Australian, New Zealand, Irish, French and English troops below. The battleground soon resembled that of the Western Front - both sides peering at each other from fortified trenches, forced to spill their precious blood in futile frontal attacks on well defended positions. The stalemate continued through the fall of 1915 until British forces withdrew at the end of the year.

Casualties were high - approximately 252,000 or 52% for the British/French while the Ottoman Turks suffered about 300,000 casualties or a rate of 60%. The failed campaign gained little and badly tarnished both Churchill's and Kitchener's reputations.


The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps "Anzacs" usually get the major share of historical commentary however England, France as well as Anzacs all participated as well as did the navies of Britain and France.


Anonymous said...


We, along with our New Zealand brethren, were the cannon fodder for the disgrace that is Gallipoli! The privations, hardships and loss of life combined with an iron will cameraderie dragged our then young nation into adulthood (we had only been federated fourteen years previously). We were the living fuel for Kitchener and Churchill! Australia's population was around 4.9 million at the outbreak of WWI. If memory serves me correctly, we lost up to 10% of the flower of our male population during this grim and bloody war that would change the world forever (deliberately if you believe some commentators). We commemorate 25th April every year (ANZAC Day) in memory of those lost in all wars from WWI onwards. The ranks of the marchers are thinning ( veterans wise) and I think we lost our last WW1 survivor back in 2010, but as the living memories are finally dimming with their owners and WW1 retreats into the mists of pre- living memory, we are not forgetting. Indeed, the annual pilgrimage to Gallipoli by Australians (some descendants, some veterans of later conflicts, some simply following the pilgrim's path to find meaning in somber reflection) is amazing; the lead up to 2015 will be incredible! And one final footnote; the bond of friendship forged in war between Australia and Turkey is likely unique in the theatre of battle; they have watched over our dead for nearly a century now; their descendants live in our nation, march with our troops every 25th April as we both mourn our losses and the futility of conflict that consumed our youth and hope all those years ago.

One more thing; as members of the British Empire, Australia was doing its bit from 1914 (the first campaigns in Papua New Guinea for instance) yet the British demanded Australia pay for all the resources we used to fight their war, which led in part to the dreadful state of affairs financially around fifteen years later when the mighty Jack Lang (NSW Premier) finally put his foot down.

for Australians and New Zealanders reading this blog, you've touched on an incredibly important part of our history; for an excellent film on the subject, you simply must watch 'Gallipoli' directed by Peter Weir; it encapsulates this event in our history as nothing else can.



Brantigny said...

I have met other Australians who have similar feelings about the "pommies"

I have watched Gallipoli, I have a copy of it. As well as Light Horse.

The use of Empire troops by Britain in the First as well as the second world war is a factor in the disolution of the Empire.

During the Second World war the draining of Australians and new Zealanders to fight in the desert, while it brought glory to the Australia severly weakened the nation as the Japanese attacked.

I have fought alongside the "Desert Rats" in the First Gulf War. I would much rather fight along side than with.

My mother visits Australia quite often, she has friends in Perth.

Brantigny said...

Although the idea for Gallipoli was sound the execution was not.
Led by officers who lacked initiative, poorly supported in Britian, and an enemy fighting in there home land from overlooking positions the outcome was inevitable.

Chuchill responded when the troops were finaly withdrawn, "They never gave my plan a chance."