Australia and New Zealand in the Great War
The Legend of the ANZACs
The Battle of Gallipoli
took place on the Turkish peninsula of Gallipoli from April 1915 to
January 1916 during the First World War. A joint British and French
operation was mounted in order to eventually capture the Ottoman capital
of Constantinople (now Istanbul). The attempt failed, with heavy
casualties on both sides.
In Turkey the campaign is known as the Çanakkale Savaşları, after the
province of Çanakkale. In the United Kingdom it is called the
Dardanelles Campaign or Gallipoli, and in France, Australia, New Zealand
it is known as the ANZAC landing at Gallipoli. ANZAC is an acronym
for the "Australian and New Zealand Army Corps".
Russia, one of the Allied
powers during the war, had problems with its seaborne supply routes. The
Baltic Sea was locked by the German Navy, while the Black Sea's only
entrance was through the Bosphorus, which was controlled by the Ottoman
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 the Allied side.
A first proposal to attack Turkey had already been suggested by a French
minister in November 1914, but it was not supported. A suggestion by
British Naval Intelligence (Room 39) to bribe the Turks over to the
Allied side was not taken up. Later in November, 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 Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener,
appointed General Sir Ian Hamilton to command the Mediterranean
Expeditionary Force that was to carry out the mission.
On 19 February, the first attack on the Dardanelles
began when a strong Anglo-French task force, including the British
battleship Queen Elizabeth, bombarded Turkish artillery along the coast.
A new attack was launched on 18 March, targeted at the narrowest point
of the Dardanelles where the straits were just a mile wide. A massive
fleet under the command of Admiral de Robeck containing no fewer than 16
battleships tried to advance through the Dardanelle. However almost all
of the fleet was damaged by sea mines which were laid along the Asian
shore by the Turkish minelayer Nusret. Three battleships were sunk (the
British Ocean and Irresistible and the French Bouvet) while
battlecruiser HMS Inflexible and the French battleships Suffren and
Gaulois were badly damaged.
These losses prompted the Allies to cease any further attempts to force
the Straits by naval power alone.
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
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 (including four Senegalese battalions) under
Disposition of Turkish 5th Army.
Hamilton's invasion force was opposed by the Turkish Fifth Army, under
the command of the German advisor to the Ottoman Army, General Otto
Liman von Sanders. The Fifth Army, which had to defend both shores of
the Dardanelles, comprised six of the best Turkish divisions totalling
84,000 men. At Bulair, near the neck of the peninsula, were the Turkish
5th and 7th divisions. At Cape Helles, on the tip of the peninsula, and
along the Aegean coast, was the Ninth Division and, in reserve at Gaba
Tepe in the middle of the peninsula was the 19th Division, under the
command of Mustafa Kemal. Defending the Asian shore at Kum Kale, which
lies at the entrance to the Dardanelles, were the 3rd and 11th
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 on the Asian shore. There was also a
one-man diversion by Bernard Freyberg of the RND at Bulair.
The Helles landing was made by the 29th Division under
the command of Major-General Aylmer Hunter-Weston, on five beaches in an
arc about the tip of the peninsula, designated from east to west as S,
V, W, X and Y beach.
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 the following
day as Turkish reinforcements arrived.
The main landings were made at V Beach, beneath the old Seddülbahir
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 Royal Munster Fusiliers and Royal
Hampshires was landed from a converted collier, SS River Clyde, which
was run aground beneath the fortress so that the troops could disembark
directly via ramps to the shore. 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. On both beaches the Turkish defenders were in a
position to inflict appalling casualties on the landing infantry. The
troops emerging one by one from the sally ports on the River Clyde
presented perfect targets to the machine guns in the Seddülbahir fort.
Out of the first 200 soldiers to disembark, only 21 men actually made it
onto the beach.
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. Six
awards of the Victoria Cross were made amongst the Lancashires at W
Beach. Six Victoria Crosses were also awarded amongst the infantry and
sailors at the V Beach landing and a further three were awarded the
following day as they finally fought their way off the beach. After the
landings, there were so few of the Dublin and Munster Fusiliers left
that they were amalgmated into one unit, "The Dubsters". Only one
Dubliner officer survived the landing; overall of the 1,012 Dubliners
who landed, only 11 would survive the entire Gallipoli campaign
On the afternoon of 27 April 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 28 April, the British, now supported by the French on the right of
the line, intended to capture Krithia in what became known as the First
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 Seddülbahir 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. After the battle, the
Allied trenches lay about halfway between the Helles headland and
Krithia village. With Turkish opposition 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 1 May and 3 May were repulsed despite
breaking through the French defences.
The first attempt at an offensive at Anzac took place on the evening of
2 May 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 3 May, having suffered about 1000
Believing Anzac to be secure, Hamilton moved two brigades, the
Australian Second Infantry Brigade and the New Zealand Infantry Brigade,
to the Helles front as reserves for the Second Battle of Krithia
starting on 6 May. 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 19 May 42,000 Turks
attacked 10,000 Australians and New Zealanders but the attack
tragically miscarried. Lacking sufficient artillery and ammunition, the
Turks relied on surprise and weight of numbers for success but their
preparations were detected and the defenders were ready. When it was
over the Turks had suffered about 10,000 casualties. In comparison, the
Australian casualties were a mere 160 killed and 468 wounded. The
Turkish losses were so severe that a truce was organized for 24 May in
order to bury the large numbers of dead lying in no man's land.
In May the British naval artillery advantage was
diminished following the torpedoing of the battleships HMS Goliath on 13
May, HMS Triumph on 25 May and HMS Majestic on 27 May. After these
losses much of the battleship support was withdrawn and those remaining
would fire while under way, reducing their accuracy and effectiveness.
In the Third Battle of Krithia on 4 June 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 4,500 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 28 June. This battle advanced the
British line along the left (Aegean) flank of the battlefield which
resulted in a rare but limited victory for the Allies. Between 1 July
and 5 July the Turks launched a series of desperate counter-attacks
against the new British line but failed to regain the lost ground. Their
casualties for the period were horrendous, estimated at in excess of
One final British action was made at Helles on 12 July before the Allied
main effort was shifted north to Anzac. Two fresh brigades from the 52nd
Division were thrown into an attack in the centre of the line along Achi
Baba Nullah (known as Bloody Valley) and sustained 30% casualties
without making any significant progress.
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 6 August a fresh landing of two infantry divisions
was to be made at Suvla, five 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 Bay was only lightly opposed but the British
commander, Lieutenant-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
The offensive was preceded on the evening of 6 August by diversionary
assaults at Helles and Anzac. At Helles, the diversion at Krithia
Vineyard became another futile battle with no gains and heavy casualties
for both sides. At Anzac, an attack on the Turkish trenches at Lone Pine
by the infantry brigades of the Australian 1st Division 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 7 August but was not able to seize the summit until the following
morning. This delay had fatal consequences for another supporting attack
on the morning of 7 August; 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 Turkish
defences. The New Zealanders held out on Chunuk Bair for two days before
relief was provided by two New Army battalions from the Wiltshire and
Loyal North Lancashire Regiments. A massive Turkish counter-attack, led
in person by Mustafa Kemal, swept these two battalions from the heights.
Another planned attack on Hill 971 never took place. The attacking force
of the Australian 4th Infantry Brigade (General 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 plus the dismounted yeomanry of the 2nd Mounted Division.
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 21 August 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 29 August,
the battle for the Sari Bair heights, and indeed the battle for the
peninsula, was effectively over.
Following the failure of the August Offensive, the
Gallipoli campaign entered a hiatus while the future direction was
debated. The persistent lack of progress was finally making an
impression in the United Kingdom as contrasting news of the true nature
of the campaign was smuggled out by journalists like Keith Murdoch and
Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett discrediting Hamilton's performance. Disaffected
senior officers such as General Stopford also contributed to the general
air of gloom. The prospect of evacuation was raised on 11 October 1915
but Hamilton resisted the suggestion, fearing the damage to British
prestige. He was dismissed as commander shortly afterwards and replaced
by Lieutenant-General Sir Charles Monro.
The situation was complicated by the entry of Bulgaria into the war on
the side of the Central Powers. On 5 October 1915 the British opened a
second Mediterranean front at Salonika which would compete for
reinforcements with Gallipoli. Also Germany would now have a direct land
route to Turkey, enabling it to supply heavy siege artillery which would
devastate the Allied trench network, especially on the confined front at
Having reviewed the state of his command, Monro recommended evacuation.
Kitchener disliked the notion of evacuating the peninsula and made a
personal visit to consult with the commanders of the three corps; VIII
Corps at Helles, IX Corps at Suvla and ANZAC. The decision to evacuate
Evacuation of 14 divisions in winter in proximity to the
enemy would be difficult and heavy losses were expected. The untenable
nature of the Allied position was made apparent when a heavy storm
struck on 27 November 1915 and lasted for three days. There followed a
blizzard at Suvla in early December. The rain flooded trenches, drowning
soldiers and washing the unburied corpses into the lines. The following
snow killed more men from exposure.
Ironically the evacuation was the greatest Allied success of the
campaign. Suvla and Anzac were to be evacuated in late December, the
last troops leaving before dawn on 20 December 1915. Troop numbers had
been progressively reduced since 7 December 1915 and cunning ruses were
performed to fool the Turks and prevent them discovering that the Allies
were departing. At Anzac, the troops would maintain utter silence for an
hour or more until the curious Turks would venture out to inspect the
trenches, whereupon the Anzacs would open fire. As the numbers in the
trenches were thinned, rifles were rigged to fire by water dripped into
a pan attached to the trigger.
Helles was retained in case the British wanted to resume the offensive.
However, a decision to evacuate there too was made on 27 December. The
Turks were now warned of the likelihood of evacuation and mounted an
attack on 6 January 1916 but were repulsed. The last British troops
departed from Lancashire Landing on 9 January 1916
The battle of Gallipoli was a finely balanced struggle with neither side
able to exploit any slight advantage. When the Allies achieved a
breakthrough, such as at Lone Pine or the second battle of Krithia, they
lacked the reserves to continue the advance. Likewise when the Turks
halted an Allied attack, their counter-attacks were unable to rout the
The Ottoman Empire had been dismissed by Tsar Nicholas I of Russia as
"the sick man of Europe" but after victory over the Allies at Gallipoli,
Turkey's visions of the empire were renewed. In Mesopotamia the Turks
surrounded a British expedition at Kut Al Amara, forcing their surrender
in 1916. From southern Palestine the Turks pushed into the Sinai with
the aim of capturing the Suez Canal and driving the British from Egypt.
Defeat at the Battle of Romani marked the end of that ambition and for
the remainder of the war the British were on the offensive in the Middle
Words of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk at Anzac Cove commemorating the deaths of
thousands of Turkish and Anzac soldiers.
After the evacuation the Allied troops reformed in Egypt. The Anzacs
underwent a major reorganization; the infantry were expanded and bound
for the Western Front, the light horse were reunited with their horses
and formed into mounted divisions for operations in the Sinai and
Palestine. At the Battle of Beersheba they would finally achieve the
decisive break-through victory that had eluded the Allies on Gallipoli.
Amongst the generals, Gallipoli marked the end for Hamilton and Stopford
but Hunter-Weston was granted another opportunity to lead the VIII Corps
on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. The competence of
Australian brigade commanders, John Monash and Henry Chauvel, would be
recognised with promotion to the command of divisions and ultimately
corps. Winston Churchill and the First Sea Lord John Fisher both
resigned as a result of the defeat, amid mutual recriminations. Lord
Kitchener was too popular to be punished, but he never recovered his old
reputation for invincibility and was increasingly sidelined by his
colleagues until his death the following year. Gallipoli was also
instrumental in the fall of the prime minister H. H. Asquith in 1916.
The significance of the battle of Gallipoli is perhaps most strongly
felt in Australia and New Zealand where it was the first great conflict
experienced by those fledgling nations. Before Gallipoli the citizens of
these countries were confident of the superiority of the British Empire
and were proud and eager to offer their service. Gallipoli shook that
confidence and three years on the Western Front would destroy it
On the Turkish side, the meteoric rise of Mustafa Kemal began at
Gallipoli. In 1934, Kemal, now Kemal Atatürk, president of the new
Turkish Republic, wrote this tribute in remembrance of the Anzac
Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives... You are now
lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There
is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they
lie side by side now here in this country of ours... You, the mothers,
who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears; your
sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost
their lives on this land, they have become our sons as well.
addition to the killed, those who died of wounds and wounded listed in
the table, many soldiers became sick in the unsanitary environment of
the peninsula, mainly from enteric fever, dysentery and diarrhoea. It is
estimated that a further 145,000 British soldiers became casualties from
illness during the campaign.
Amongst the dead of the battle was the brilliant young physicist Henry
Moseley. Also the poet Rupert Brooke, serving with the Royal Naval
Division, died shortly before the invasion from a septic mosquito bite.
No chemical weapons were used at Gallipoli, although they were used
against Ottoman troops in the Middle Eastern theatre two years later
during the second and third battles of Gaza in 1917.
There were allegations that Allied forces had attacked or bombarded
Turkish hospitals and hospital ships on several occasions between the
start of the campaign and September 1915. By July 1915, there were 25
Ottoman hospitals with a total of 10,700 beds, and three hospital ships
in the area. The French Government disputed these complaints (made
through the Red Cross during the war), and the British response was that
if it happened then it was accidental. Russia in turn claimed that the
Turks had attacked two of their hospital ships, Portugal and Vperiod,
and the Ottomon Government responded that the vessels had been the
victims of naval mines.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) is responsible for
developing and maintaining permanent cemeteries for all Commonwealth
forces United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, India, Newfoundland and
others. There are 31 CWGC cemeteries on the Gallipoli peninsula: six at
Helles (plus the only solitary grave), four at Suvla and 21 at Anzac.
For many of those killed, and those who died on hospital ships and were
buried at sea, there is no known grave. These men's names are each
recorded on one of five "memorials to the missing"; the Lone Pine
memorial commemorates Australians killed in the Anzac sector; whilst the
Hill 60 and Chunuk Bair Memorials commemorate New Zealanders killed at
Anzac. The Twelve Tree Copse Memorial commemorates the New Zealanders
killed in the Helles sector, and British and other troops (including
Indian and Australian) who died in the Helles sector are commemorated on
the memorial at Cape Helles. British naval casualties who were lost at
sea, or buried at sea, are not recorded on these memorials, instead they
are listed on memorials in the United Kingdom.
There is only one French cemetery on the Gallipoli peninsula, located
near Soroz Beach, which was the French base for the duration of the
There are no large Turkish military cemeteries on the peninsula, but
there are numerous memorials, the main ones being the Çanakkale Martyrs'
Memorial at Morto Bay, Cape Helles (near S Beach), the Turkish Soldier's
Memorial on Chunuk Bair and the memorial and open-air mosque for the
57th Regiment near Quinn's Post (Bomba Sirt). There are a number of
Turkish memorials and cemeteries on the Asian shore of the Dardanelles,
demonstrating the greater emphasis Turkish history places on the victory
of March 18 over the subsequent fighting on the peninsula.
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