On January 8, 1916, Allied forces staged a full retreat from the shores of the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey, ending a disastrous invasion of the Ottoman empire.

A great deal more is known about how to conduct an amphibious operation now than it was then. And often, understanding in a military context, is purchased with blood. (Liam Clancy)

The Gallipoli Campaign resulted in 250,000 Allied casualties and greatly discredited Allied military command. Roughly an equal number of Turks were killed or wounded.

In early 1915, the British government resolved to ease Turkish pressure on the Russians in the Caucasus front by seizing control of the Dardanelles channel, the Gallipoli Peninsula, and then Istanbul. From there, pressure could be brought on Austria-Hungary, forcing the Central Powers to divert troops from the western front.

The first lord of the Admiralty, WINSTON CHURCHILL, strongly supported the plan, and in February 1915 French and British ships began bombarding the Turkish forts guarding the Dardanelles.

Bad weather interrupted the operation, and on March 18, six English and four French warships moved into the Dardanelles. The Turks, however, had used the intervening time wisely, setting mines that sank three Allied ships and badly damaged three more. The naval attack was called off, and a larger land invasion was planned.

Beginning April 25, British, Australian, and New Zealand troops landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula, while the French feinted a landing on the opposite coast to divert Ottoman forces. The Australians and New Zealanders were devastated by the Turkish defenders, who were led by Mustafa Kemal, the future President Ataturk of Turkey.

Meanwhile, the British likewise were met with fierce resistance at their Cape Helles landing sites and suffered two-thirds casualties at some locations. During the next three months, the Allies made only slight gains from their landing sites and took terrible casualties.

To break the stalemate, a new British landing at Suvla Bay occurred on August 6, but the British failed to capitalize on their largely unopposed landing and waited too long to move against the heights. Ottoman reinforcements arrived and quickly halted their progress. Trenches were dug, and the British were able to advance only a few miles.

In September, Sir Ian Hamilton, the British commander, was replaced by Sir Charles Monro, who in December recommended an evacuation from Gallipoli. In early January 1916, the last of the Allied troops escaped.

As a result of the disastrous campaign, Churchill resigned as first lord of the Admiralty and accepted a commission to command an infantry battalion in France.

19 COMMENTS

    • I think that during the planning for Overlord, Churchill was most anxious to see the army move off the beach and take objectives inland as soon as possible. Parachute infantry was part of that strategy (not available during WW1).

  1. Truly a disaster of epic proportions, and one of the major faults was indecision on the part of the Brit commanders. Their failure to capitalize on the surprise landing doomed the evolution. And the Anzacs have never forgiven them, nor forgotten…

    • The practice started in 1683 during the reign of Charles II and continued until abolished on 1 November 1871, as part of the Cardwell Reforms. However, the officers were frozen in rank and there was an entitlement to rank accorded to those of royal blood.

      It was an Army thing, though. The Royal Navy never allowed for the purchase of commissions. One of royal blood may send a fourth son to sea as a midshipman to learn a trade and a fifth son to the priesthood.

      Which brings us to primogeniture. In 1925, the British Parliament abolished primogeniture as the governing rule in the absence of a valid will. That practice, even more than a purchased commission caused a great deal of strife. A family would have an heir and a spare and the rest needed to be placed somewhere respectable (the navy or the priesthood). One couldn’t see one’s children become shopkeepers (feather merchants). Maybe a younger child would serve the oldest by managing some portion of a large estate, but manager is as far as they’d go. They couldn’t inherit absent some catastrophe.

      • So, in LSP’s case, doubly blessed with both the priesthood and “placed somewhere respectable” as in Texas, a process once otherwise quaintly known as GTT by the colonials. Sweet!

  2. A “funny” thing about Gallipoli is that, while terribly underestimating the land threat, they also totally overestimated the sea threat. If they had pressed on after the initial demonstration / reconnaissance, before the Turks and Germans had time to reinforce the minefields and get subs down into the Dardanelles, they could have sailed right up to Constantinople and possibly forced a capitulation.

    Hindsight.
    -Kle.

  3. My understanding was that Churchill’s plan used ships chosen for the attack because they were no longer useful in battle against ships of the line, and were therefore considered expendable. Admiral de Robeck’s decision to fall back after the losses in Eren Keui Bay was against the plan and Churchill’s objections. The admiralty was so conditioned to avoid capitol ship losses that it’s commanders couldn’t stand to lose ships that had no other military purpose.

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