With so many commemorations of the battles of the First World War taking place as we work our way through the centenary of the events of that awful conflict, we thought it would be appropriate to include at least one item about that war. The one we have chosen doesn’t feature in the glorious annals of victory, but rather in the tragic loss of so many lives resulting from a serious underestimate of the enemy, in this case, the Turks. Alan Robinson a local war historian will recount the story of The Gallipoli Landings of 1915
This is what Alan has to say about his talk;
By early 1915, the Great War was going badly for the Allies. Almost everywhere the German armies stood on their enemies’ territory. Attempts to push back the Germans on the Western Front resulted in very small gains which incurred very heavy losses amongst the attacking troops. Churchill, who was in charge of the Admiralty in the Liberal Government in the first year of the war, conceived the idea of an Allied naval assault through the narrow waters of the Dardanelles to attack Constantinople. By this feat of arms he was hoping to knock Turkey out of the war, open up a more secure route to Russia and to develop a back door through the Balkans to attack Germany and its Austro-Hungarian ally.
These were laudable aims. However, Churchill’s vision was not matched by the delivery. The Allied naval forces could not force their way through the Turkish defences along the Dardanelles and the army was ordered to land on the Gallipoli peninsula and to seize the Turkish forts guarding the Dardanelles. The army mounted a series of amphibious landings. In months of hard and very costly fighting, the Allied army were left with nothing more than a series of shallow toeholds. The “Easterners” in the Government led by Churchill and the Allied commanders possessed little intelligence about the Turkish army or the inhospitable terrain over which the troops would have to fight. Moreover, troops were poorly trained and badly equipped.
After making so little progress and enduring appalling losses, the Government bowed to the inevitable and ordered the Gallipoli peninsula to be evacuated in December 1915 and January 1916. It was the only bit of the campaign that went well. The evacuation was carried out with imagination and no lives were lost. The “Westerners” in the Government and the higher echelons of command in the British army had won and thereafter the military effort was concentrated on the Western Front.
The talk will describe the course of both the naval attack on the Dardanelles and the campaign fought by the Allied armies on the Gallipoli peninsula. The talk will also look at some of the implications of the Gallipoli campaign for both the Allies and the Turks in the Great War and look at the longer term lessons for amphibious warfare in the Second World War.