Always in our hearts, we need no reminder every April of the sacrifice made at Gallipoli during World War 1.
Prime Minister John Howard, on the death of the last Anzac, Alec Cambell, Sydney Morning Herald, 17 May 2002 said: “It is a story of great valour under fire, unity of purpose and a willingness to fight against the odds that has helped to define what it means to be an Australian.” Australian casualties for the campaign were 26,111, including 8,141 deaths. More than 2,000 Australians died on the first day of the operation. Despite this, it has been said that Gallipoli had no influence on the course of the war. As an Australian I think that we all know, or should know the story and I have previously written on this subject for the Newsletter. Some may think that their culture does not demand this knowledge.
Opening a second front, which was the purpose of the Gallipoli Campaign, is a valid strategy especially if there is a stalemate on the first front as was the case in France. It is also a valid strategy to exploit a special capability as was the situation with the supremacy of the Royal Navy which afforded flexibility of operations. However, having a strong navy does not automatically mean that you have an amphibious capability. To commit the Royal Navy at that time to an amphibious operation, which is arguably one of the most complex operations in the art of war, was naive at best and to use raw, “unblooded” troops in such an operation was stupid.
Success at Gallipoli would have led to the opening of the Dardanelles and a sea passage to the Black Sea and central Asia. It would have put a wedge between Turkey, the German ally, and put pressure on Germany from another flank drawing its resources away from France and open sea communications with Russia which supported the allies. If Russia had not been a British ally and if Britain had handed over the two battleships that it had constructed for Turkey and been paid for with Germany providing replacements perhaps Turkey would have been a British ally. Turkey saw being allied to Germany as an opportunity to regain territory that had been annexed by Russia. This alliance was also seen as a means of preventing the loss of more territory.
While the Allied forces were under strength, faced all the difficulties of attacking a defended position, suffered from the failure to secure the vital ground and the results of many mistakes the Turks were not without their difficulties. They were initially not well organised in defence. Turkey suffered more casualties than the Allies. The Turkish success resulted in a large measure to the great leadership and offensive action taken at every opportunity by the Turkish commander, Colonel Mustafa Kemal. His well sited howitzer batteries in enfilade positions allowed the high trajectory of the weapons to engage the landing force but remain invulnerable to the powerful, accurate, flat trajectory naval guns. He was later to be the commander of the Turkish forces in Palestine and after the war to become the President of Turkey, Kemal Ataturk. Ataturk was a Freemason.
Lest we forget!