A Glance at Gallipoli
Lieut.-Colonel C. O. Head
”With a desire to have a look at the scenes of these valiant exploits, and, thus, with some personal knowledge of the local topography, be able to form an independent judgment on the whole merits of the campaign, I made an expedition to Gallipoli in May 1930, and spent a few days viewing the peninsula. I have read much of the writing, British and German, bearing on the subject ; and with such local knowledge as I gained, added to some considerable study of military history and strategy, I have attempted to present a miniature picture of the Dardanelles operations in a true perspective.“
One of the rarest books dealing with Gallipoli.
It can hardly be denied that while much happened in the (Great War of which we can be justifiably proud, yet there was a wide domain of performance that was grievously disappointing. National pride, self-complacency and the personal feelings of some highly-placed individuals combine to exalt and preserve in memory all we did that was meritorious, and to ignore, palliate or excuse all that was unsatisfactory or reprehensible. The result is a very misleading picture of the great drama in which we played so big a part, and a possible failure to grasp, study and learn the lessons which the war expounded so sternly, and which may be of such vital concern to us in the future. Criticism and depreciation may be ungracious, and are, certainly, not so profitable to an author as glowing adulation, but they are necessary and corrective stimulants for the production of first-class workmanship. The Press-censorship of the war did incalculable injury to our power of achievement. It cloaked the incompetence of statesmen and generals, and led the nation to tolerate inferior performance, and to magnify indifferent actions into sterling deeds. A Press-censorship in war is a vital necessity, but its use demands the greatest care and vigilance to prevent its becoming a demoralising and baneful agency. That is one of the problems disclosed by the war, that should be carefully studied, and provided with an effective principle to meet and obviate its objections when the next great emergency confronts us.
Leadership, and particularly military leadership, was our greatest want and chief failure in the war. The statesmen in power were, in too many cases, ignorant, vain, unpractical or prejudiced, but, to do them justice, they subordinated themselves to the military leaders, and endeavoured to adapt their offices to the military needs of the nation. Politicians on the whole were admirable, more helpful and less obstructive than those of any other belligerent country, not even excepting Germany. The nation responded nobly to the call made on it. The Colonies leaped to the help of the Mother country. Regimental officers were, as always, beyond praise ; and the N.C.O.s and rank and file were even better than could be expected. But the higher military leaders, though almost always great and gallant gentlemen, yet from lack of study or imagination, were not sufficiently appreciative of the principles and requirements of first-class warfare, and the army Staff was impressed with a vicious sense of its aloofness and detachment from the rest of the army. It is to these two last factors that nearly all our disasters and failures can be traced.
The tragedy of the situation was that we had men thoroughly competent and qualified to take charge of it, had not political prejudice prevented their being installed in high places. In Lord Roberts we had the outstanding strategical genius of Europe. He was old certainly, but not much older than Von der Goltz who actually went to Bagdad to stop Townsend's advance. He was wonderfully fit ; and his brain was as acute and active as it had been in his great days of past triumph. He would have made an ideal Chief of the General Staff; and one or two able young deputies of his own choice might have been appointed to assist him, and relieve him of tedious and intricate detail. He would have seen clearly the proportionate value of the various theatres of war, and would have allotted forces and commanders for them with due regard to their relative importance and peculiar conditions. He understood great war as few other men in England did, and could look at it clearly and objectively, and not as a medium for his own personal profit, fame or gratification. He was in fact a thoroughly disinterested patriot, perfectly equipped with all the faculties, knowledge and character which are necessary in the outfit of a great general. Had his life been prolonged, we can picture him during months of suspense as to proceedings on the Turkish front, furnishing us with the laconic announcement "Situation unchanged," and then suddenly one morning informing us that the troops had captured Kilid Bahr plateau and the fleet was sailing through the Dardanelles ! Alas ! what a chance we missed of conducting war in the grand style !
What inspiration impelled British generals to adopt the German-made system of battles " according to plan," with commanders and staffs far from the scene of action? Wellington, Wolseley and Roberts never set them that example. Our generals used to pride themselves on sharing danger and privation with their men, and taking a reason-i able chance of any hazards that Fortune might have in store for them. Without that condition, war is a cold-blooded, I brutal exercise, devoid of all chivalry and romance. And I its results are less favourable to us than under our old habit of personal leadership. The Germans suffered in effectiveness from the system too, but they had more justification for its use than we had. Their officer-class was not large ; their N.C.O.s were wonderfully trained and devoted to their duty, and their men were docile and stupid. They aimed at making war a purely mechanical business, utilising their resources, as they thought, in the most effective way possible. But a mechanical method of making war is not the best suited to our qualities and means. We have an enormous officer-class, N.C.O.s less concentrated on their task than the Germans, and more independent, intelligent men. We can afford to lose a large number of senior officers without serious disability ; the men do better in the presence of their leaders ; and the value of the commander being on the spot to direct operations is immeasurable. We suffered at times deplorably from the practice of this modern system made in Germany.
An analysis of the Gallipoli campaign discloses it as a particularly bad example of inept military management. Its inception, plan and conduct were all faulty in the extreme, and put the troops engaged in it to inordinate loss and exertion, and cost the country a price out of all proportion to the results gained. It even, had it not been for a sane restraining influence by the highest military authorities, threatened to assert itself as our main theatre of war, and to absorb all the military and naval resources at our disposal. I have tried to show in the ensuing pages, that a secondary operation of limited liability, with some spare forces we had available and suitable, was perfectly sound and justifiable at the Dardanelles ; but the greatest care had to be exercised that the operation did not entangle us too greatly in that region, and did not make an excessive demand on the exiguous store of men and munitions we had available for far more vital service on the Western front. But a limitation of that character is not easily imposed on a prominent general or statesman. They cannot readily admit their personal efforts to be of only secondary importance, and they strive to get everybody else to view them in the same light.
For active hostilities against Turkey we held some enormous initial advantages. In Egypt we had an almost ideal base of operations, safe, sufficiently salubrious, and easily accessible, either from home or from India and Australia. A great force could safely and conveniently be collected there, and trained, organised and supplied for any enterprise contemplated. Then, in our command of the sea we had a striking power and a liberty of choice of objective that were entirely free of any restriction, doubt or risk. We could make our plans with absolute certainty of being able to put our force intact, and probably secretly, at any spot on the enemy's coast that we decided to make the scene of our activity. These were quite extraordinary initial advantages, and such that one belligerent rarely possesses so absolutely over another. In days of old, Greece, Carthage and Rome possessed at times absolute maritime supremacy, but their liberty of movement was to some degree cramped by the capacity and method of propulsion of their ships. Steam and almost unlimited tonnage freed us entirely from the restrictions which hampered the liberty of action of old-world invaders. In the Napoleonic war, strong or contrary winds were a serious impediment to the success of landing operations, and made their calculation a matter of difficulty and uncertainty. Steam and a huge variety of modern mechanical appliances have simplified the task of disembarking an invading army, so long as there is no danger to be apprehended from hostile action on the sea. The Austrian fleet was shut up in the Adriatic, German submarines had not yet appeared in the Mediterranean, and the Turkish fleet was almost negligible, so the sea was open to us for a maritime expedition.
For our failure at the Dardanelles, as failure it undoubtedly was, our leading soldiers of the time must take the responsibility. The British Government said " yes " or " no " to the project, according as the wind in its favour blew hot or cold, and acquiesced submissively in any measures taken for its prosecution. The great want of the moment was an authoritative Chief of the General Staff; Lord Kitchener had practically usurped the functions of that officer, and besides being not very well qualified for the part, had quite as much work to do as Secretary of State for War as one man could possibly perform. His instinct, generally sure, warned him against diverting any considerable proportion of his available resources to an Eastern adventure, far from the decisive theatre of war ; and against the possibility of getting involved in subsidiary undertakings which might have a pernicious influence on the main operations. But he could not see his way clearly, and veered from disapproval to partial compliance, without forming a clear view of the nature and scope of the enterprise. The First Sea Lord, after a short period of flickering and contingent consent, became definitely hostile to the project. No more unfortunate genesis for a difficult and delicate undertaking could be imagined.
But even with the bad start the Gallipoli operations got, there seems to be no valid reason why the object aimed at should not have been gained ! As success was not obtained it is impossible to say whether it was within reach, but it is easy to point out errors and faults in the way the enterprise was planned and conducted which effectually deprived it of any chance of being successful. And it is hard to resist the belief that success in the minor object aimed at was perfectly and readily attainable. The Germans and Turks were quite resigned to it, and were looking backwards for the next defensive position, at, or beyond, Constantinople. But they had no intention whatever of throwing up the sponge on the loss of the Dardanelles ; they only counted on weakening us so much there by their defence, that they could more easily withstand us in the next position. All the dazzling pictures and lyrical descriptions of the rich reward awaiting our emergence into the sea of Marmara are only the figments of ignorant and thoughtless enthusiasm. The Bosphorus was a still more formidable proposition than the Dardanelles, and the Asiatic side of the latter was a problem requiring the most anxious consideration if the passage of the Straits was to be kept open. In fact the whole British army, had it been available, might have been employed there without entirely subjugating the Turk and his German leaders, and driving him out of the war. But a capture of a commanding position on the Gallipoli peninsula with the spare forces available, and a naval raid through the Straits, would seem to have been a perfectly feasible project, promising strategical results of considerable value, and not prejudicing our struggle against our main enemy, Germany. All our writers dwell with insistence on the difficulties and obstacles we encountered ; they never look at the case from the Turk's point of view, so their picture is misleading. The Gallipoli peninsula was an awkward bit of ground to defend, and quite inadequately prepared for defence. The lurk could not maintain large numbers of troops there before he was quite assured of our plans. He had a thousand miles of coast line to guard, as well as the sixty miles exposed coast of the peninsula, so he could not concentrate his forces in any one locality in anticipation of a descent on it. And the lack of communications and shelter on the peninsula made the dispositions and supply of troops there peculiarly difficult. He suffered from a scarcity of ammunition and a lack of a great variety of military stores and appliances. When the attack did fall on him he could only concentrate slowly and exiguously to meet it. If the attack had fallen on the spot where he was least prepared, and could least readily oppose it, he could hardly have resisted it ! Falling as it did on his best protected locality, and the waterless impracticable region of Sari Bair, was a gift of the Prophet to his faithful followers—Well might they shout " Il Allah Akbar."
The campaign, fortunately, had one great redeeming feature, which almost entirely relieved it of the bitter taste of defeat. The heroism and determination our men displayed has rarely, if ever, been equalled. Great feats of organisation were performed, a vast deal of inconspicuous, meritorious work was accomplished, but the feature of the campaign which will distinguish it for ever was the dauntless courage and patient fortitude of all ranks of our fighting forces. " Their name liveth for evermore " is an epitaph that only does bare justice to the heroes who died on Gallipoli.
With a desire to have a look at the scenes of these valiant exploits, and, thus, with some personal knowledge of the local topography, be able to form an independent judgment on the whole merits of the campaign, I made an expedition to Gallipoli in May 1930, and spent a few days viewing the peninsula. I have read much of the writing, British and German, bearing on the subject ; and with such local knowledge as I gained, added to some considerable study of military history and strategy, I have attempted to present a miniature picture of the Dardanelles operations in a true perspective. And also, perhaps over-ambitiously or gratuitously, I have been actuated by a desire to draw attention to some faults and weaknesses in our military methods, which were national rather than peculiar to the military system, and which were only developed recently by a false estimate of modern conditions. They militated seriously against the many other excellent factors of potentiality which we had at command, and only require recognition to be eradicated or deprived of their harmfulness.
C. O. H.
Convoyed with expert skill by Mehmed, I was soon clear of the station, and flying in a taxi through the teeming streets of Stamboul. Across the long bridge spanning the Golden Horn our route lay, and up the steep streets leading to Pera, where my hotel, the Tokatlian, was situated. The taxi-horn went at full blast the whole way, but its strident noise appeared to make little impression on the crowds of leisurely pedestrians, for whom the narrow pavements did not afford sufficient room. The drive was composed of short rapid sprints and sharp sudden stops, where the crowd or tram-cars, or a congestion of other motor-cars, made progress impossible. Powerful engines and good brakes are essential for motor-traffic in Constantinople; and in these respects foreign cars would appear to have an advantage over British. I didn't see a single English car in Turkey ; they were all of them of French, Italian, and American manufacture. The streets, paved with large stone setts, were rough in a superlative degree, so good springs were another essential requirement in the equipment of a car. Drivers appeared to be sufficiently expert and capable, and reasonably careful of their charges, though intolerant of the safety of pedestrians, for whom the noise of the motor-horn was considered to be sufficient safeguard. Smartly and martially attired traffic-controllers, posted, for their personal safety, on concrete platforms at important street junctions, guided the currents of traffic without undue interference. Walking is a disagreeable method of progression in Istanbul : the pavements are narrow and crowded, and their occupants in no hurry to get forward or out of the way. The din is hideous ; street-vendors and motor-horns producing a loud and continuous cacophony. The shop-windows are not attractive. Beggars, in spite of legal prohibition, surreptitiously and assiduously ply their calling. Unpleasant, even repulsive, human objects obtrude themselves too frequently. The man in the street and his newly emancipated womankind are not attractive-looking ; well-to-do elderly men are too fat, young men too sleek, old women stout and shapeless, young women too painted. Distances are great, hills steep. So to see Istanbul at its best, don't walk ; get into a motor-car. The Tokatlian Hotel, so called from the name of its proprietor, an Armenian, is not externally an imposing-looking building, but internally it offers all the gratification one can desire. Its mixture of European comfort and barbaric decoration is pleasing, and the brilliancy of its electric lighting is an advantageous feature. One can read comfortably in any seat without having to manoeuvre for a special angle or volume of light ; or one can survey the cosmopolitan crowd without optical difficulty. The food is excellent and the native liquors sufficiently palatable, but foreign wines are too prohibitive in price for consumption. Bathrooms as annexes to bedrooms, and limitless very hot water on tap at all hours of the day and night, provide a luxurious and Oriental accompaniment in lavatory fittings of Parisian manufacture. And the cherubic smile of a little brown liftboy conveys the acknowledgment that he is highly honoured by the privilege of being allowed to elevate the traveller to his place of rest.
But on this day of arrival, rest was by no means the first item in Mehmed's programme ; I must go sight-seeing ! The old palace of the Sultans on Seraglio Point was open this day to the public, but would be closed on the morrow, so it was profoundly necessary that I should proceed immediately to see it. Mehmed had, of course, a car in waiting, so we retraced our way down the hill to the Golden Horn, across its long bridge, passed above the railway-station, and in at lightning speed through the arched gateway of the palace. No janizaries now to bar our way, or rebuke our impudence by summarily despatching us; only some commonplace individuals at the next barrier demanding the regulation price of admission. The attraction of the palace lies more in its historical and mythical interest than in any architectural or decorative beauty. Most of its treasures have been removed for safe keeping to the museums or elsewhere, and only some tapestries and carpets still garnish its bare walls and floors. The halls of audience and judgment, pleasure-rooms, and bathing apparatus are all as described so often in tales of the East, more complete but less decorated than the royal apartments at Delhi and Agra. The apartments for the women, old and young, are, less their furniture and habiliments, just as these ladies had left them. Two 100ms larger than the others had been assigned, according to Mehmed, to the mother and No. 1 wife of the Sultan respectively. The other ladies had to content themselves with very small chambers, or with some minute share of the common-rooms. The head eunuch had a comparatively spacious room for his own use ; the others were accommodated in grim-looking cubicles. A row of dark damp cells opposite the eunuchs' quarters proclaimed their use quite palpably; and, again on the authority of Mehmed, a stout closed door covered a secret passage leading down to the Sea of Marmara. Eunuchs, cells, a secret passage and Marmara ; here we have all the ingredients of Turkish drama ! An ill-kept garden with fountains, pavilions, terraces, acacias, and cypresses spread round the palace ; and the kitchens, outhouses, offices, and quarters for the guards separated it effectually from the town.
From the palace it is but a step to the great mosque of St. Sophia, so Mehmed insisted on including that famous shrine in his sight-seeing programme. This edifice, as everybody knows, was one of the earliest Christian cathedrals, built by the Roman Emperor Justinian, and only converted to use for Mahometan worship at the time of the Turkish conquest in the fifteenth century. At Cordoba, in Spain, we have its converse, a Mahometan mosque converted into a Christian cathedral ; and it must be said the Christians did the transformation more thoroughly. At Cordoba the mosque was preserved as a sort of courtyard and cloisters, and a church complete with every requirement of the Roman Catholic religion was erected in the centre of it, with its roof and towers pushed high above the almost flat covering of the mosque ; at Constantinople the Turks contented themselves with obliterating all emblems of the Cross and representations of Christian saints, and erecting suitably proportioned minarets at the corners of the building as financial means permitted. Mehmed, influenced more by his professional zeal as a guide than by his religious spirit as a devout Mahometan, stigmatised all these effacements as the work of destructive fanatics, and took special pains to point out bits of crosses or saints5 persons peeping out from under the plaster or rival decoration which had been used to cover them. One feature of the building created some difficulty in its adaptation for Mahometan prayers ; its orientation diverged considerably from the straight line to Mecca, so that the true believers worshipping naturally in the direction of the main axis of the church would have their faces turned from the focus point of orthodoxy. The objection was clumsily overcome by installing the principal shrine in the south-east corner of the chancel, and laying all the praying carpets, with which the floor is entirely covered, in a southeasterly direction, askew to the main direction of the building. The result gives the church a lop-sided appearance, though it is actually strictly symmetrical. The great size of the building, to which the absence of pillars and seats appears to contribute, is perhaps its most striking characteristic, and one could readily believe Mehmed's statement that it was capable of accommodating ten thousand worshippers. Two old grandfather-clocks of London manufacture, conspicuously placed, were, apart from the carpets, its only visible furniture.
Before the third decade of this century the foot of the giaour was rigidly prohibited from desecrating the sacred floor of this holy temple ; now a down-at-heel slipper over a boot or shoe is considered a sufficient shield against contamination ; and Christians so shod are permitted to roam at will about the edifice, with only an insignificant offering of baksheesh to the attendant. The ten thousand worshippers no longer forgather, even on the most solemn ordained occasions ; a beggarly hundred may possibly take their place, dotting the floor of the great mosque on the carpets of their choice. The great staff of priests that were maintained or subsidised by the old Turkish Government have been cut down to the miserable number of four, and the poor survivors have lost all their former prestige and power.
The volume of prayer expected from them is not a heavy demand on their strength, but the climbing five or six times a day to the lofty minaret balconies to discharge the duty of the muezzin must be an exercise of considerable labour, unproductive of any gratifying effect. This is certainly a time of depression for the imams in Turkey. Whether the Ghazi- the title earned by Mustapha Kemal for his victorious campaign against the Greeks - is wise in damping or discouraging the religious tendencies of his people is a matter of serious doubt! Were the Turks better or worse for being Mahometans, and will they be improved by diminution or extinction of their religious fervour, or by conversion to some other faith ? The Ghazi may consider that the fatalism inherent in Islamism is inimical to human progress on the lines he desires, but in extirpating it he may be losing a quality which has been of some advantage to the Turkish race, and replacing it by some less profitable or suitable attribute ! But the Ghazi is an able ambitious man, keenly concerned with the future of his country ; and his treatment of its religion may prove to be a factor of world-wide importance !
. . . It may be objected that the I.G.S. would not possess adequate knowledge of the topography of the ground and the Turkish defensive arrangements so as to be able to make satisfactory plans. But of course a reconnaissance of the position was of the most supreme importance, as also was the most careful study of all the conditions, features, and factors that could be ascertained. Turkey entered the war towards the end of October 1914, and we didn't make our main landing in Gallipoli till April 25th, 1915. That gave us nearly six months to collect a vast amount of information and topographical knowledge. The landing might expediently have been made a great deal sooner, but, say, we had six months* time to prepare it. The I.G.S. might have drafted a rough scheme ofi general lines, leaving much detail to be filled in subsequently. They might then have sent out their designated naval and military commanders to make a thorough reconnaissance of all the ground that could be seen, and get all the first-hand information that could be gathered. These commanders could have steamed up and down the Gallipoli coast at their will for as long as they pleased. They could have tried the effect of, and witnessed, naval bombardments ; they could have tested the effect of small landings of naval parties. When they were decided on their plan and were satisfied that there was nothing more to be learnt on the spot, they might then have repaired to, say, Malta, where the C.I.G.S. or his deputy, with some expert assistants, could have met them for a conference on the plan of operations. Then the whole matter could have been threshed out, weighed, balanced, judged, and perfected. It is, as aforesaid, absolutely essential that great critical undertakings should not depend on the conception and judgment of one man. Whenever it is possible, his plans should be checked by experts. And further - though this is a policy of perfection, difficult of attainment - if the designated commander disapproves of the concerted schema, ta such an extent that he considers it is bound to fail in all its objects, he should beg to be relieved of the task of executing it, and be replaced by someone who might believe in it. Such conduct would provide another valuable check on faulty schemes. We certainly would have difficulty in finding a commander of that self-denying character : the opportunity of acquiring reward and distinction would be too tempting, and conscience could always be solaced by the reflection that it is a soldier's duty, not to question, but to obey ! But, oh, what lives would be saved and ghastly failures avoided if higher commanders displayed, when occasion warrants it, some more independence and unselfishness ! No commander should ever undertake an enterprise from which he does not think some purpose to the advantage of his country can be achieved.
The problem has now been resolved into getting the troops safely ashore at a spot where they would be effective for the gaining of the ulterior object - the domination of the Narrows. We want the assistance of the fleet to get the army ashore, and we want the army to reach a position where it can not only help the fleet to get through the Narrows, but can hold that position definitely and permanently, so as to keep the passage of the Straits open far the further operations of the fleet. There are two problems involved in this desire : (1) where the army would be most effective for the purpose required, and (2) where it could be got ashore with the minimum of loss ! Of these, the second is the more important. An army thrown intact on shore, though it might find further progress impossible and be unable to achieve its object, yet could be re-embarked for a trial elsewhere, and would still be a potential force occupying the serious attention of the enemy. On the other hand, an army thrown ashore in the most desirable place, but so crippled by loss incurred in landing that it was incapable of further effort, would only entail a deplorable and futile waste of life, and would lose at one stroke most of the strategical advantages it had originally possessed. We must balance one problem with the other and try and find a place where we could get ashore as cheaply as possible, with the easiest path ahead of us to the dominating position we require.
Of course, we couldn't tell for certain where we could land with the least amount of loss, but from reconnaissance and the exercise of judgment we could surmise it fairly accurately. There were actually several places where a landing was, or would have been, practically unopposed. At S Beach, on the eastern horn of Morto Bay, our troops got ashore with little opposition ; at X Beach the defence was weak, and little loss was incurred in landing. At Y Beach practically no resistance was met. There were several gaps in the cliffs between Y Beach and Gaba Tepe which were virtually undefended. Anzac Cove was only very slightly guarded, and the whole shore from Ariburnu Point round to the north horn of Suvla Bay was almost bare of any defence. From Suvla Bay to Ejelmer Bay the high ridge, Kiritch Tepe, which ran parallel, and close to, the coast, was held by only a few small parties of the Turkish police. Here was some variety of choice in the selection of an undefended landing-place. Tentative attempts might be made on one or more of them to test the defences, and reserves kept close at hand on the sea to drive home any initial advantage gained at the one that was most desirable. And the actual landing-place secured need not necessarily be regarded as the coast base for further operations : the landing-party might be able, by moving right or left, to secure from the land side, with the help of the forces still at sea, a more convenient base for the further operations contemplated. Some well-trained reliable troops were required for the first landing to carry and make good any obstacles that might be encountered. This force should be lightly equipped, well extended to avoid overcrowding, armed with plenty of machine-guns to hold the position gained, and provided with a relay of energetic capable leaders. As the position was being secured and gradually enlarged, the whole force should be got ashore with the utmost rapidity, and directed without delay on the previously selected objectives. A concentrated force and one line of operations only, with reserves well in hand, were the tactical requirements of the situation.
There were two places where a landing might be expected to be met with stern opposition. One was at the Beaches V and W, where we had already landed marines and been driven off with loss, and which we could see were prepared and fortified to resist us. These beaches suffered a further disadvantage, from our point of view, of being under fire from the Asiatic shore, unless we landed a detachment to hold that shore. Such a detachment would only dissipate our strength and reduce it in the quarter in which we intended to act decisively. The other place was in the neighbourhood of Gaba Tepe, where the shore was low, and the shortest line across the peninsula to the Narrows began. There the Turks might be expected to have constructed strong defensive works, and their wire entanglements might have been seen from the sea. But the attractions of an advance from Gaba Tepe were so palpable that a landing there, if it could have been achieved without great loss, might have been seriously considered, and might have been tried at least tentatively. The gunfire of the whole fleet could have been brought to bear on that locality more unrestrictedly and directly than on almost any other part of the peninsula. Under such a fire it is hard to believe that the troops could not have landed without great loss or difficulty, and then, with only five or six miles to get across the peninsula, what possibilities were in store for them !
In connection with the landing, the other point we had to bear in mind was the position we wished to aim at to achieve our object. The sailors appear to have expressed the belief that the possession of Achi Baba would have given us an observation station that would have enabled us to direct the fire of the fleet on the forts in the Straits accurately and overwhelmingly. So far as I could see, that was not the case : Achi Baba afforded direct observation of the intermediate forts in the Straits, at Dardanos and Suandere (Hill 610), and imperfectly of the Chsinak forts, though they were eight miles from it, but gave no view of the Kilid Bahr forts, or any guns there were at Nagara. The best observation station on the peninsula was Kilid Bahr plateau or Pasha Dagh. It dominated all the keys of the Straits, and its possession by us would sever decisively the Turkish line of communications across the Narrows. The western edge of this plateau lay barely three miles from the ^Egean coast, and sloped gently and smoothly down into the plain that adjoined this coast. No formidable obstacles intervened between it and the sea, and the capture of the plateau appears to have been quite a fair and reasonable object of war, assuming that the whole available force was landed safely and completely somewhere on the coast opposite to it. A landing at the end of the peninsula with a view to an advance on Achi Baba entailed some grave disadvantages. Ground had to be gained for about four miles before Achi Baba was reached, going uphill all the way over successive lines of trenches based at either end on the sea. Our troops could not get the full support of the available naval gun-power, as the cliffs on the Aegean shore defiladed them from view; and the flat trajectory of the ships' guns prevented their use of any plunging fire. And when Achi Baba might be reached after heavy fighting, the result would have been disappointing, as the Narrows would not be dominated, and Hill 6io and Kilid Bahr plateau were formidable obstacles to further advance. Even assuming that the army could have been got ashore intact at the tip of the peninsula, Achi Baba does not appear to have been a suitable goal for their efforts. Another locality that must be considered for a moment was the neighbourhood of the Bulair lines at the north end of the peninsula. General Liman von Sanders was very apprehensive of our landing there, and kept two of his divisions specially stationed in that neighbourhood to prevent it. It is difficult to understand why he should have expected a descent there ! It was, certainly, the narrowest part of the peninsula, but getting across the peninsula at that point to look at the Sea of Marmara would not have been of any advantage to us, or helped our fleet to get through the Straits. An army successfully landed there would then have a long march ahead of it along the peninsula to reach the Narrows ; and, meanwhile, the Turks from Maidos, and reinforced by troops from across the Narrows, could move northwards and take up a line across the peninsula stopping us, while the defenders of the Bulair lines harassed our rear. Liman von Sanders's usual good judgment appears to have failed him in this instance ; it is almost impossible to see what advantage a landing in the vicinity of the Bulair lines would have gained us, or how even the capture of the lines themselves would have profited us !
There is one other locality for a landing requiring careful consideration - the strip of coast-line from Anzac Cove round Suvla Bay to Ejelmer Bay. Troops could have been landed here without loss almost certainly, as was proved by the August landing at Suvla Bay. And the ground inland for some considerable distance, north of Sari Bair, offered no serious difficulties to a well- and energetically-led army. An advance from this neighbourhood would cut th« Turkish line of communications along the peninsula, and prevent the Turks from Gallipoli joining hands with those to the south of Sari Bair. The heights of Sari Bair should be reached and held by small parties to establish defensive posts, with suitable reserves ensconced in the ravines close at hand to support the posts and maintain them. The hill would then be valuable for observation purposes, and would cover the right flank of the main operation. It would be necessary to establish a defensive flank on the left to ward off any Turkish attack from the direction of Gallipoli. Passing and rounding the north-eastern shoulder of Sari Bair, the advance would aim at Maidos, on the Straits, and, beyond that place, on Kilid Bahr plateau. There are no insuperable difficulties of ground by this line ; the country is all hilly, but quite fairly accessible. The objection to this line of advance would be its length - about fifteen miles to Kilid Bahr ; but communications might be shortened by shifting them south of Sari Bair as we rounded that hill, and then making a base at Anzac Cove. All would depend on the course of the fighting, and no far-reaching plan would be possible. Good flank defence, a safe line of retreat, and fair prospects of success in front would be the most that could be expected or provided for on this line.
So we have four main regions for choice in the selection of our landing-place. Taking them from north to south, they are: (1) In the vicinity of the Bulair lines. This must obviously be south of the lines with a view to capturing them from the rear. But it is difficult to see what advantage their possession would give us ! Our army would be some thirty miles from Kilid Bahr, where its presence was required to help the fleet through the Straits, and the Turks could interpose large forces between it and that place, in a series of strong defensive positions. (2) Somewhere between Ejelmer Bay and Anzac Cove. Here a landing would be practically , unopposed, but the line of advance north of Sari Bair on Kilid Bahr is rather long, and some sharp, but not necessarily intimidating, fighting might be expected before the objective was reached. A line of advance south of Sari Bair would be shorter but might expect to encounter more formidable opposition. (3) Gaba Tepe and the coast immediately north and south of it. Here serious opposition to the landing might be expected, but this might be overcome without great difficulty by the very advantageous position the fleet would be in to bring its whole and great gun-power to bear. Kilid Bahr, only three miles away, would be within easy reach of the landed force, and the mass of Sari Bair would afford strong protection on the left flank of the operations. (4) Cape Helles area. This suffered from nearly every possible disadvantage. The defensive preparations to prevent a landing were scientifically prepared and well manned. The ships in Morto Bay covering the landing were under harassing fire from the Asiatic shore : the ships in the Aegean could not bring accurate fire to bear over the cliffs. The strategical objective was four miles distant, across defended country, and not imbued with the value it was supposed to have. That area was a suitable place for a feint, but not for a serious attack.
There was one other available line of operation that should be briefly considered - by the Asiatic shore of the Straits. There were some quite alluring possibilities about a landing on this side. It could have been made far up the Straits in Erenkeui Bay, where the Straits are about five miles wide. The Turkish guns on the peninsula would have been too far away from the landing-place to incommode it greatly. There were two Turkish divisions available to oppose the landing, but they were spread out over a wide area, and could not have been concentrated quickly enough to constitute a formidable opposition. There was a clear field of fire for the ships' guns. The army could have moved in its advance parallel to the shore, with the fleet in close attendance supporting and assisting it. Kephez Point was an excellent first objective, as it furnished a good observation-post for all the forts in the Straits. Chanak, four miles beyond it, and practically the equivalent of Kilid Bahr in strategical importance, was not beyond the possibility of attainment. In case of failure or undue detention on any particular spot, re-embarkation was always simple and safe. The disadvantages of operating on this side were that the Turks could, given sufficient time, concentrate an army against us much stronger in numbers than ours ; and as we moved up the Straits, as they narrowed, the Turkish guns on the Gallipoli peninsula would harass our left flank and rear disagreeably. But on the whole the capture of Kephez Point as a preliminary to further concerted operations up the Straits was well deserving of consideration.
Wherever we landed, some cardinal points had to be carefully adhered to. There must be only one line of operations ; the force should be kept concentrated, and reserves kept in hand in readiness for exploitation of success where required, and support of vital points threatened with loss or disaster. In our chapter on strategy we discussed the advantages conferred on a defender by the possession of interior lines. In tactics a defender in possession of them has a similar advantage. In his inner position he can hold up one attacking force on a defensive line and pour his surplus strength on the other. Neither of his assailant's separated bodies can support the other. The Turk from his focal position at Kilid Bahr could deal with southern and western attacks separately and in detail. Sea-communications between the separated land forces of the assailant would obviate the disadvantages of exterior lines to some extent, but not sufficiently to compensate for them. Movement and communication by their rear would take more time and be more complicated than their adversary's movements over shorter distances by land ; and the reserves of one force, if any, would not be available to exploit or cover the contingencies of the other. Command would be more difficult, and unity of aim impossible. One line of operations was essential to success : if two were attempted as trial tests, one should be quickly abandoned in favour of that one more promising of definite success .