Saturday, 25 April 2015


I could have made this part of the previous post. I could've done that. I was going to do that. I didn't because I ended up thinking that the points raised were more than what I wanted  to say, bigger, more worthy even, than I intended. I also tagged it solely with ANZAC Day even though it's points were broader than that. Why? I felt it in appropriate to do otherwise. This post, though, won't be like that. It will, instead, try and address one the central problems I identified: misunderstanding.

Firstly, some context. I wrote this two years ago as part of a history internal. Specifically, the level three perspectives standard. My initial goal was to find perspectives on whether or not there should have been a Gallipoli Campaign. That sounded easy enough. It probably is, surely the idea is controversial. On one hand, you have a theoretical idea that sounds strong. On the other, you have an experienced reality that was a miserable failure. I am sure that this view is correct. My year thirteen self, though, didn't. As I went through and did my research I was forced to alter what I was up to. What I actually wrote was an assessment that was geared towards analysing different perspectives on whether or not Gallipoli was a total failure (successes include, temporary tactical victories or brief occupation of strategic locations, and the evacuation; failures? everything else). I then had to agree with one view... I went with total failure. What follows is the introduction and conclusion of what was a massive assessment (compared to other things I have done, although not abnormal compared to year thirteen), one which did manage to achieve with excellence so it wasn't bad either. Bear in mind, the introduction was written mostly when I was still intending to follow the original topic.

Note, the introductions were basically summaries of what happened in the event and weren't really what was being assessed. They were more a basic consequence of pretty much giving us complete free reign in topic choices.

On the outbreak of war in August 1914 the expectation was that the war would be over by Christmas but it soon became apparent that this would not be the case. In fact, despite the mobility of the early German pushes through France and Belgium, a vast network of trenches soon spanned the entirety of a largely static Western Front. Germany’s Eastern Front against Russia was not quite as bad but the highly mobile war that had been envisioned didn’t exist there either. In Britain the search began for an alternative front; it was apparent that the colonial wars in Africa and Oceania were nothing more than distractions. From the French perspective it was vital that the Western Front be held and no crucial resources diverted from it. As such any alternative front would have to make use of men, munitions and supplies that could spared. Problematically for the British Empire the army had always played second fiddle to the navy so to make best use of the resources available any new front should ideally have potential for a large naval involvement. For the ambitious First Lord of the Admiralty this was perfect and Winston Churchill soon fixated on the Dardanelles.
The Ottoman Empire’s strength had once threatened all of Europe but by the early 1900s it was considered to be “The Sick Man of Europe”. However, its control of the Dardanelles, through which much of Russia’s imports and exports passed, meant that its strategic value was apparent to both the Entente and the Central Powers. As a result, the Ottomans were courted by both the Germans and the British but Turkey ultimately decided on joining the Germans. This alignment reflected the decades of advice supplied by German officers to the Ottoman Empire and also Russia’s being in the Entente. Once Turkey had entered the war in November 1914 the Royal Navy wasted little time in bombarding Turkish forts guarding the Dardanelles. Recalling their motive for allying with Germany the Ottomans themselves were interested in a war against their traditional enemy: Russia. This interest manifested itself as an invasion of the Caucasus, which prompted a Russian request for aid on 1 January 1915. The response was the 2 January bombardment by the Royal Navy of the forts guarding the Dardanelles. However, the message was more significant for its altering of the attitude towards a campaign in the Dardanelles. The new aim of, as Kitchener put it, “Stopping reinforcements going East”[1] was to have a profound affect on the decision making process. In fact, Churchill and others would go on to argue that helping Russia was the main aim. The Dardanelles Commission itself would conclude, “The enterprise was originally undertaken in order to create a diversion in favour of the Russians.”[2]
Throughout January Churchill continued to push for an operation in the Gallipoli area, the problem was that influential figures such as Kitchener continually changed their positions on key aspects of the plan. Even within the Admiralty there was significant disagreement, often between the two leading men: Churchill and the First Sea Lord, Lord Fisher. However, at this stage, Fisher was in support of a combined offensive against Gallipoli, ideally involving Greeks, with an emphasis on speed. Fisher was inspired by the argument made by Maurice Hankey on 28 December 1914. Hankey’s paper focussed on the potential gains to be made from defeating Turkey, emphasising its viability as a solution to known supply difficulties faced by Russia. Lord Fisher wrote to Churchill on 3 January where he stated, “We shall decide on a futile bombardment of the Dardanelles,”[3] but he also outlined a plan for defeating Turkey that included a naval offensive to force the Dardanelles. Despite the letter’s opening derision of a purely naval approach, Churchill seized this idea and instructed Vice-Admiral Carden to prepare a feasibility report on the possibility of using the navy to take the Dardanelles. Churchill interpreted Carden’s reply as being affirmative, as long as sufficient numbers of ships were available. In reality Carden merely thought it possible “with a large number of ships”[4]. Churchill then told him to make a plan for doing so.
The meeting of the War Council of 8 January discussed the question of an operation in Turkey. The Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener, thought that 150,000 men would be required for the job but simultaneously explained that they weren’t available. Kitchener’s approval was required to do anything and Churchill interpreted his comments at the meeting as being favourable to his plans for the Dardanelles. Carden’s plan was complete by the eleventh and although Churchill later reported that the response from the Sea Lords was positive, in actuality it had been mixed and wary. This plan was presented to the War Council two days later and Hankey notes that he and others present found it more appealing than, “a ‘slogging match’ on the Western Front.” [5]Fisher disagreed and would later state, “They were all carried away with him [Churchill]. I was not,”[6] when giving evidence at the Dardanelles Commission. Since first thinking of the idea in September, proposing it in November and developing it in early January Churchill had done much to ensure that it went anywhere, even going as far to prevent the War Council from learning of an Admiralty report that criticised the idea. At this stage the Dardanelles Campaign was to be purely naval, despite a 1906 consideration and Fisher concluding that it must be combined to succeed. This was a position that began to be considered towards the end of January.
Throughout this time period, Fisher continued to press for the combined effort. On 16 February it was, in essence approved, when Kitchener decided that the 29th Division was to go to Lemnos where an advance base had been established. However, he soon changed his mind and by the 25th Churchill was using a memorandum to try to establish support for the combined approach but Fisher’s proposed 200,000 men far exceeded the 115,000 Churchill wrote were available. At the meeting of the War Council the next day Churchill was once more advocating a purely naval approach claiming soldiers were required, “after the fleet had obtained command of the Sea of Marmara.”[7] However, on 10 March the army was involved once more after a pessimistic report of the navy’s chances of success reached Kitchener. While this was happening the Navy had begun to work on forcing the Dardanelles. 19 February represented a promising start but it soon became apparent that mines were the real danger to the ships. This was not an issue against the outermost forts but once within the straits themselves the mines and the ineffectiveness of the minesweepers became a major problem.
The bombardment of 19 February itself wasn’t an amazing success but it was a start. Within a week the outer forts were rendered useless and the fleet could move into the straits. It was known that mines were present, although the field that would ultimately prove to be the fleet’s undoing was laid without British knowledge. To counter the mines a makeshift minesweeping force consisting mostly of civilian boats and under the command of officers lacking experience in the matter was put together. From 1-13 March sweeping was theoretically conducted. However, the strong currents, the inexperience of all involved and also the inability to take out shore-based defences with the mines present meant that nothing useful was accomplished. All the same a large undertaking was made on 18 March with 16[8] battleships and supporting craft allocated to the task. Three of the battleships were sunk and three more damaged for no real gain. Two of the three sunk had struck mines laid in Eren Keui Bay but a third ship damaged by those mines managed to reach safety. The minesweepers may not have missed the mines in question as they were laid a few days earlier but their presence was unknown to Rear-Admiral de Robeck who had taken over from Carden following the latter’s falling ill.
On 22 March, General Sir Ian Hamilton and Admiral De Robeck met on the campaign’s flagship, Queen Elizabeth, to decide on its future direction. Both men agreed with Fisher in that a combined offensive was the way to proceed. As a result, Hamilton returned to Alexandria to regroup and reorganise the ground forces allocated to the campaign. De Robeck had said that efforts against the forts would be kept up in the meantime but this didn’t happen. In fact, the Turks took the opportunity to strengthen their position. On 24 March Liman von Sanders was put in command of the Ottoman Fifth Army[9] and, as such, was responsible for the defence of the Gallipoli peninsula. After the British withdrawal Herbert Asquith would describe Liman’s men as, “The whole flower of the Turkish army.”[10] However, on 12 April Hankey made remarks that would suggest that those driving the Dardanelles operations took a dim view of the Turkish defenders, “The military operation appears… to be… a gamble upon the supposed shorted of supplies and inferior fighting qualities of the Turkish armies.”[11] That said, Liman did miscalculate where the invaders would come ashore as Besika Bay was too far south for British minds. This was not a disaster as he had also concentrated Turkish forces back from the coast which would ultimately mean that defenders could be quickly brought to meet the invaders when they landed.
On 25 April 1915 Hamilton’s attack was ready. There were three main landings in the end: the British at Helles, the French at Kum Kale and the Anzacs a mile north of where they were meant to be. The Australian forces landed at dawn and met lighter resistance than expected but due to the nature of the landing units were incredibly mixed up. Further compounding matters was the awful terrain of the beach which meant that by the time the reserve Turkish defenders were encountered the Australian forces were all over the place. Continued landings meant that enough men were available to plug the gaps and things soon settled down into trench warfare. The French landing was only ever designed to be a diversion but progress was clearly being made over the two days before they were sent to help out at Helles. The landing at Helles was spread over four beaches: S, V, W, X and Y. Some of the forces that landed at W were originally headed for V Beach which had met with the heaviest resistance. Y Beach was evacuated on 26 April despite minimal opposition due to confused orders; command derived problems would persist throughout the campaign and would come to characterise it.[12] Turkish defence defeated a general offensive on 28 April and from 8 May 1915 trench warfare became par for the course. Throughout this period both the Turks and the Allies attacked with little success. For the British the heat and water shortages added to the problems associated with trenches in the Europe as well as the close proximity of the two systems which made supporting naval fire risky. However, an improved understanding of the peninsula’s geography and Turkish positions began to suggest a way to break the Ottoman lines.
Scouting in June revealed that Turkish defenders to the North of the Anzac perimeter were poor and Hamilton began to develop a plan to exploit this. By August there were enough men available and the Suvla landing began on 6 August. A combined Anglo-Anzac force was to take a hill while a new British force made a sea-borne attack on their flank. Once again it was the terrain that confounded the invaders, who got lost. Major Overton, possibly the scout who made the original discovery[13], was killed by a sniper depriving the forces of a key guide and officer. As was typical for the campaign, command-centred problems delayed the attack on Chunuk Bair. The eventual day-time charge failed at a high cost and ultimately cost a supporting Australia advance across the Nek heavy casualties. The next night it was taken but the damage was done. Such failures of command meant that the new initiative stagnated and so failed.
In mid-October 1915, Sir Charles Munro replaced Hamilton and on 31 October recommended a total withdrawal to Kitchener,[14] who replaced him with Sir William Birdwood. Interestingly Birdwood had, in April, refused the request of prominent Australian and NZ officers to withdraw.[15] Kitchener then travelled to the Peninsula himself and, on 22 November, reached the same conclusion as Munro.[16] Eventually a highly successful evacuation was enacted; Anzac and Suvla forces in December and Helles in January 1916. The whole campaign had been driven by politicians and while it had, at times, come close to succeeding it ultimately failed to meet nearly all of its military objectives. Despite this in both Australia and New Zealand, and indeed Turkey, the Campaign’s legacy would be its contribution to the developing ideas of national identity. In terms of the wider war, Gallipoli would come to mean relatively little: Robert Rhodes James notes that the Russians defeated the Turkish army almost immediately after their initial request for aid,[17] and, even at the time, the Western Front had first dibs on all resources, from men to munitions.
One of the main debates that have arisen from the Gallipoli Campaign is the question of whether or not the Campaign was a total failure. The argument that it was a total failure centres on the idea that none of the military objectives were ever achieved[18]. For example, the naval operation failed to force the Dardanelles and the land campaign resulted in a stalemate broken by the withdrawal of the Entente’s forces. The position that it wasn’t a total failure emphasises certain aspects of the motivations and also looks at wider more political effects that can be claimed to have been caused as a result. This allows its proponents to conclude that because it accomplished some significant things that were related to the Campaign it wasn’t a total failure. This debate was particularly strong in the immediate aftermath of the Dardanelles Commission’s report in 1917 as reputations stood on the line. It’s also quite a subtle debate as both sides accept that the Campaign failed.

[1] The Straits of War Gallipoli Remembered, Martin Gilbert, Sutton Publishing Ltd, UK, 2000, pg. xv
[2], 26 March[3] The Straits of War Gallipoli Remembered, HRH Prince Phillip, Sutton Publishing Ltd, UK, 2000, pg. 29
[4] Ibid., pg.31
[5] Churchill: A Study in Failure 1900-1939, Robert Rhodes James, Penguin Books, 1981, UK, pg.87
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid, pg. 90
[8] World War 1, H. P. Willmott, Dorling Kindersley Ltd., China, 2007, pg. 113; Battle, R. G. Grant, Dorling Kindersley Ltd., 2005, Singapore, pg. 282
[9] Shattered Glory, Matthew Wright, Penguin Books, Australia (no city given), 2010, pg. 82
[10], 26 March[11] Churchill: A Study in Failure 1900-1939, Robert Rhodes James, pg. 98
[12] “By this thinking, [the Australasian soldiers] had been let down by foolish British officers,” Shattered Glory, Matthew Wright, pg. 311; “The execution of the operation was flawed. Such is the general judgement.” The Straits of War Gallipoli Remembered, Robert A.K. Runcie, Sutton Publishing Ltd, UK, 2000, pg. 39[13] The Straits of War Gallipoli Remembered, Leonard Thornton, Sutton Publishing Ltd, UK, 2000, pg. 113[14], 6 April[15] Shattered Glory, Matthew Wright, pg. 23
[16], 6 April[17] Churchill: A Study in Failure 1900-1939, Robert Rhodes James, pg. 82
[18] “Objectives assigned for the first day were still distant dreams when the British finally admitted defeat and evacuated the Peninsula in January 1916.”, 6 April

I will also include the conclusion, to give a sense of the different views that I identified (and, note, the perspectives came from all sorts of sources... historians, contemporary politicians and what I callled internet commentators (i.e. people on Yahoo answers),.

In brief, the ‘total failure’ side would present the objectives, summarise the course of events and throughout this link the two together to conclude that it was a total failure. The strengths of this argument lie in the solid factual evidence and the occasional marginalisation of certain aspects of the campaign does not weaken the argument. The different situations and aims of the perspective holders that compose this side also do not prevent them from laying out the arguments in essentially the same fashion with the same foundations. This is a significant difference when compared to the other side, where this is the case. This side also makes references to the failure of the wider objectives as well as the tactical ones in the campaign, just sparingly. For example, James doesn’t address whether or not Gallipoli actually helped defend Egypt or not. Mulvey and James both deal with the idea that Gallipoli successfully eased pressure on the Russians in that the former points out that it was the Germans who were beating the Russians not the Turks for most of the Campaign and the latter in the Russian victory in the Caucasus. James’ structure diverged the most from the pattern with his casualty centric ideas but the high cost of the Campaign is not something that is really brought up by the other side at all. That said Mulvey provides a potential weakness in that he never really makes an attempt to explain why there was only the one good thing in the withdrawal and the seemingly positive gains that he mentioned earlier.
Summarising the ‘Not a total failure’ side is more difficult as there is no standard argument made. However, all seize upon one or a few key points and structure their arguments around that. Trung’s case is particularly unusual as he explicitly states, “It was, however, a huge failure, because the primary objective was not completed due to miscalculations of the plan”[1] but that’s not as damaging to his personal argument as it would be for the others because he does not hinge what he’s saying on the strategic big picture like them. Trung and Cameron both deal with the specifics of the Campaign but Cameron does so more in the context of bad stuff happening to Churchill as befits his opinion piece’s status as a defence of Churchill. By doing this Cameron forces the justification of his view to rely more on the tenuous link between Gallipoli and preventing the fall of the Russian Empire. While it is true that easing pressure on Russia is an objective that I found in my research, I saw nothing that suggested there was ever an intention to preserve Russia’s government structure. Trung’s treatment of the details of the Campaign is central to his argument in that it rests largely upon the few successes made over its course and, also, being able to get away happily at the end. The lack of reference to the course of the campaign if a fundamental weakness in Asquith’s and Churchill’s cases and, as a result, they essentially present the reverse of Mulvey. Where he isolates the military and strategic gains (including the relief for Russia) to focus on the military, the politicians only look at strategic gains and even then selectively. This is noticeable in the case of Bulgaria where that country’s delayed entry into WWI as Central Power is mentioned but there isn’t any support for what the consequences of an earlier war against Bulgaria would have been, which is really necessary for this to be a positive (as Gallipoli did not prevent the entry of Bulgaria so what was actually gained from that delay? Could Bulgaria actually have made a difference at all?).However, the emphasis on the big picture, evident in most of this side’s arguments, is a strength does have its positives as it allows a proper evaluation of what the Campaign meant in terms of the wider war.
While I can sympathise with the view that the Gallipoli Campaign was not a total failure I ultimately find that considering it to be a total failure the stronger position. The potential strength of the big picture is undone by the failure to capitalise on its place within the wider war. What is the point of talking about strategic gains if they are not looked at it the long run? I feel that these can only be considered as successes for the Gallipoli Campaign if they actually meant something. This is compounded by the fact that the ‘Easterners’ who argued that an alternative to the Western Front should be found became marginalised as a result of Gallipoli, and that, indeed, Gallipoli itself was always second fiddle to the Western Front. The strong case for Russia I feel is dismantled by three points. Firstly, Mulvey’s pointing out that it was the Germans that were really threatening the Russians. Secondly, James’ point that the Russians won the Battle of Sarikamish against the Ottomans. Thirdly, that Russia ultimately exited the war prior to its conclusion due mostly to the efforts of the Germans and internal pressures. Trung’s argument I find quite silly. I mean, he acknowledges that Gallipoli was a massive defeat, concludes that it should not have happened and then says it was not a total failure because the Allies managed to take a few trenches (and successfully withdraw). My research also showed a flaw in this thinking as, for example, Chunuk Bair was captured and then lost again[2]. The ‘not a total failure’ side also doesn’t focus so much on the details of the campaign, like the high casualties,[3] while the ‘total failure’ side does explore the strategic level. As a result, I cannot consider the ‘not a total failure’ to be as valid because the perspective doesn’t properly consider all aspects of the Campaign.

[2] “But the forward trenches were finally overrun and the New Zealanders pulled back.” Shattered Glory, Matthew Wright, pg. 142
[3] “87,000 Turks and 44,000 British and French, including 8700 Australians and 2721 New Zealanders. The wounded numbered in the hundreds of thousands, perhaps as many as 160,000 Turks and up to about 100,000 British allies, including 20,000 Australians and nearly 5000 New Zealanders.”, 15 April
The point I am trying to illustrate is that the who thing was much more complex than our ANZAC Day as we know it can help.

The bibliography that I used (perhaps useful content):

The Straits of War Gallipoli Remembered, introduction by Martin Gilbert, Sutton Publishing Ltd, UK, 2000, 26 March
Churchill: A Study in Failure 1900-1939, Robert Rhodes James, Penguin Books, UK, 1981
World War 1, H. P. Willmott, Dorling Kindersley Ltd., China, 2007
Battle, R. G. Grant, Dorling Kindersley Ltd., 2005, Singapore
Shattered Glory, Matthew Wright, Penguin Books, Australia, 2010, 6 April, 6 April, 6 April
The First World War, Hew Strachan, Simon $ Schuster UK Ltd., UK, 2003
First World War, John D. Clare, Riverswift Random House, Singapore, 1994
                Perspectives, 7 April, 6 April, 14 April, 14 April, 13 April, 14 April, 14 April, 14 April, 15 April, 15 April, 15 April, 7 April, 15 April, 15 April, 15 April, 15 April 7 April,2011839, 15 April

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