Monday, January 24, 2011

Gallipoli

In early 1915, the Allies were in a very bad way. The Russians were being routed back to their own country because of the battle of Tannenburg, and on the western front things had settled down into the trench warfare that has come to define the First World War. The Entente desperately needed a diversion, and that came with the entry of the war by Ottoman Turkey. The Turks, who were clinging to a crumbling empire, could hardly afford the war. But, because of a shared interest to smash the Russians, and the stealing by the British of her two new battleships then fitting out, the nation was forced into the Great War. The Allies were elated. Very quickly a plan to sail a fleet up the Dardanelles to capture Constantinople was devised by the then-first lord Winston Churchill and promptly put into use. However, owing to Turkish defenses and Naval incompetence, the plan failed.The Naval captains could not bear to lose a single ship, and out of fear and stupidity, the plan was a complete failure. So, a new plan was dreamed up that entailed troops being landed on the Gallipoli peninsula. This was to take place on 25 of April, 1915. From the start, the plan was prone to mishaps. First, the ANZAC forces were landed in the wrong place. Then, strong tukish resistance to the invaders, particularly the troops commanded by Mustafa Kemal, future leader and founder of modern Turkey resisting the Helles beachhead, stalled the Allied offensive. And, to top it all off, the commanders employed by the Entente were extremely incapable. Eventually, the campaign slowed to a halt and degenerated into trench warfare, leading to the evacuation of Allied troops. In an ironic twist of fate, the evacuation, in contrast to the landings, was one of the most efficiently carried out operations in military history.  PS. Those of you who are aficionados of the German battlecruiser fleet will note that I have left out one very important piece of the puzzle. Well, the SMS Goeben and Breslau ( if you don't know what they are, look them up on Wikipedia) and their escapades are interesting, but I have chosen to write about them in a later post. More on that some other time...

1 comment:

  1. Ok this is good BUT here are some things that might have been at least mentioned:

    * Why did the Turks enter the war (fascinating tie-in to the Goebben saga here)
    * How did the naval plan go astray?
    * Who were the political actors in England?
    * What were the circumstances of the naval "failure"?
    * Why were ANZAC troops involved?
    * Where is Gallipoli? What sort of place is it?
    * How did the evacuation go?
    * Why is "Mustapha Kemal" an interesting name-drop?

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