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The Allies desperately wanted to take control of the Dardanelles (the straights connecting Constantinople with the Mediterranean). They were crucial to Russia and would make it possible for Russia to (in effect) have a warm-water port. The only problem is the Ottomans had controlled the Dardanelles for five centuries and were backed by Germany and the rest of the Central Powers. The Allies wanted to open the Dardanelles, open a second front against Austria, take Constantinople, and knock the Ottomans out of the war. One of the British leaders who championed the plan was Winston Churchill (First Lord of the Admiralty). The Ottomans were led at Gallipoli by a brilliant colonel named Mustafa Kemal. He would win an incredible victory for the Ottomans, save the empire from complete destruction, and keep them in the war for three more years. In 1922-23, he would fight and win the Turkish War of Independence, become the first president of the Republic of Turkey, and become one of the most influential statesmen of the 20th century.

  1. Turkey Enters the War

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    1. Turkey (the Ottoman Empire) had been wooed by Germany for many years prior to the war. Many German military and civilian advisors had been working in Turkey.

    2. The American ambassador to Turkey, after visiting Turkish coastal defenses, wrote “My first impression was that I was in Germany. The officers were practically all Germans and everywhere Germans were building buttresses with sacks of sand and in other ways strengthening the emplacements.”

    3. On August 2, 1914, the Turks joined the Central Powers via a secret treaty, but they did not immediately join the fighting.

    4. The Turkish government had ordered and paid for two battleships to be built in Great Britain. When Britain learned that Turkey had joined the Central Powers, they confiscated the ships.

    5. The two ships were replaced when the German Navy sailed two of their own battleships (The Goeben and the Breslau) to Constantinople and gave them to the Turkish Navy. The ships soon shelled Russian ports (Sevastopol, Odessa) on the Black Sea.

    6. Grand Duke Nicholas appealed to Britain for help against Turkey.

    7. In October, the Allies declared war on Turkey.

  1. Turkey, Russia, and Britain

    1. The Dardanelles (the straights connecting Constantinople with the Mediterranean) were crucial to Russia. They made it possible for Russia to (in effect) have a warm-water port.

    2. One-third of Russian exports went through the Dardanelles. Russia had tried to control them for centuries.

    3. Prior to 1914, Great Britain had tried to hinder Russia access to the Dardanelles. Now they completely changed that policy and offered the Russians Constantinople as a post-war prize.

    4. Meanwhile, the Turkish army launched an attack on Russia through the Caucasus. They hoped to create a “Pan Turanian” (Pan-Turkic) Empire, uniting people who spoke Turkic languages.

    5. The campaign was a complete disaster. More than half of the Turkish soldiers froze to death and many more were killed. Perhaps only 13% of the attacking force survived. The attack culminated in the Battle of Sarikamish, a big Russian victory.

    6. Russian forces counterattacked and crossed into eastern Turkey. They were welcomed as liberators by many Christians, particularly Armenians.

    7. Turkish forces also attacked the Suez Canal.

    8. On November 14, the Sultan declared Jihad (holy war). He commanded Muslims all over the world under British rule to rise up in rebellion. Few did.

  1. Galllipoli: The Plan

    1. Turkey had closed the Dardanelles, which made communication with Russia difficult. The Russian Black Sea fleet was bottled up.

    2. The Allies wanted to open the Dardanelles, open a second front against Austria, take Constantinople, and knock Turkey out of the war.

    3. To do this, the Allies needed to get a foothold in Turkey near the Dardanelles. The Gallipoli Peninsula was chosen.

    4. The Alliees came up with a plan in which Allied soldiers would be landed at Gallipoli. After they gained control of the peninsula, they would march to Constantinople and seize control of it.

    5. One of the British leaders who championed the plan was Winston Churchill (First Lord of the Admiralty).

    6. The plan was bold, but would it work?

  1. Gallipoli: The Attack

    1. The Turks had laid many mines in the Dardanelles, and the British sent minesweeper ships in to remove as many as possible. The minesweepers faced fire from coastal forts as well as a strong opposing current.

    2. On February 19, 1915 five British and three French battle cruisers attempted to “force the straits” (pass through by bombarding the Turkish shore forts), but they had to call off the attack due to bad weather. Many of the British ships were nearly obsolete.

    3. They resumed the attack on the 25th, and soon, they had the outer Turkish forts in ruins. The inner forts, however, remained strong.

    4. On March 18, the Allied fleet (now having 18 battleships) launched another attack. The Allied ships were confronted by strong Turkish shore batteries and mines in the straights (British minesweepers had missed these). Three ships were sunk and three more were damaged.

    5. The naval attack alerted Turkish ground troops of the attack. The element of surprise was lost.

    6. Turkish reinforcements were sent to Gallipoli. There they entrenched under the leadership of the German general Liman Von Sanders and a Turkish colonel, Mustafa Kemal.

    7. On April 25, 1915, the first Allied landings began. French and British forces landed at Cape Hellas on the southern tip of the peninsula, and Australian and New Zealand (ANZAC) soldiers assaulted ANZAC Cove (further to the north). The overall commander was General Sir Ian Hamilton.

    8. The ANZAC assault was especially bloody, facing a brutal counterattack led by Mustafa Kemal. The Turks had Maxim Guns and poured down enfilading fire on the ANZAC soldiers.

    9. Due to confused orders, a lack of a sense of urgency, and confusion in general, the Allies lost their chance to establish extended beach heads. They were stranded near the beaches.

    10. Turkish soldiers fired down upon the invaders from highly elevated and fortified positions. This forced the Allies to also dig in. As a result, a Western Front-like situation prevailed.

    11. One journalist wrote “…men had lost arms and legs, brains oozed out of shattered skulls and lungs protruded from riven chests; many had lost their faces and were unrecognizable to their friends.”

    12. Due to poor hygiene, an epidemic of dysentery broke out. This, plus the summer heat, was unbearable. Clean water was scarce. Flies were everywhere. Corpses rotted in the heat. Only 30% of British casualties came through battle.

    13. In August, new landings (with 63,000 soldiers) were carried out at Suvla Bay. These landings were designed to help the ANZAC force break out of their stalemate. At first they pushed the Turks back, even taking the high ground at Chunuk Bair. At one point, British naval guns fired on British soldiers due to them not knowing where the soldiers were.

    14. A counterattack led by Mustafa Kemal on August 10 pushed the British soldiers back. The Allied forces became stuck on the western side of the peninsula again.

    15. On October 16, the British high command fired the British commander, Sir Ian Hamilton, and replaced him with Sir Charles Monro.

    16. On December 7, the Allies quietly began removing troops. By January 9, 1916, they were all gone. The evacuation went well, with no casualties.

  1. Gallipoli: The Results

    1. The battle involved 1 million men on both sides.

    2. Casualties: 302,000 Allied (many from disease), including 142,000 killed. 250,000 Turkish (57,000 killed).

    3. Churchill was blamed for the disaster, and he lost his position in the government. It would take his political career a long time to recover

    4. The ANZAC soldiers took 62% casualties, but the assault came to be seen as the birth of an independent existence of Australia and New Zealand. To this day, ANZAC day (April 25) is celebrated in both Australia and New Zealand.

    5. The Turks see the defeat of the Allied invasion as a defining moment in the birth of modern Turkey.

    6. The Straits would stay closed for the rest of the war (CHECK THIS) and Turkey would remain an active belligerent.

  1. Postscript: The Salonika Invasion

    1. The Allies hoped to relieve the Serbs by sending soldiers to Serbia through Greece, even though it was neutral.

    2. Allied forces landed in Salonika, Greece in October, 1915. There was much political opposition to this in Greece. The prime minister was voted out of office.

    3. The Allies blockaded Greece until they agreed to join the Allies in June 1917.

    4. The Allied troops in Salonika were unable to break through the Bulgarian lines, which kept them out of Greece.

    5. The failure of this effort confirmed the fact that there would be no “Second Front” against the Central Powers.

Cite This Article
"The Battle of Gallipoli" History on the Net
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October 27, 2020 <https://www.historyonthenet.com/the-battle-of-gallipoli>
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