A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Saturday, April 25, 2015

ANZAC Day at 100: Gallipoli Begins

ANZAC Cove, April 1915
 A century ago today, Allied Forces landed at two location on the western coast of Turkey's Gallipoli Peninsula Australian and New Zealand troops in the north and British (actually initially Irish) battalions in the south. These two initial sites came to be known to the troops, in the first case, as ANZAC Cove (they had landed a mile north of their target), and the southern site at Cape Helles as Sedd el-Bahr. In August a third landing would be made to the north of ANZAC Cove, at Suvla Bay. The three names will endure in the annals of carnage and military folly.

From the first moments ashore it all went wrong. Landing in the wrong place, units disorganized and misplaced, and the landings confined to a narrow strip west of a ridgeline controlled by Turkish artillery.

The disaster at Gallipoli would grind on for months, haunt Winston Churchill's career for decades, and end in ignominious evacuation. Turkey marks it as a great national victory though usually marked on March 18, the date of the initial naval victory), but in addition to playing a formative role in the Turkish Republic, it also marks a turning point in the national emergence of two other great modern  nations, Australia and New Zealand. From their role as sacrificial lambs at Gallipoli emerged a growing self-confidence, that would lead in 1922, nearby at Chanak, to the refusal of the Dominions to automatically send troops when Britain requested, the beginning of real independence for the Dominions.
I reflected on those ironies in my post three years ago, "For ANZAC Day: Gallipoli, Chanak, and the Three Great  Nations Born From That Crucible."

And that offers me an opportunity to revisit other posts I have done through the years on Gallipoli. Just this March, I told the tale of the naval failure on March 18 (after which the failure of the land attack after Turkey had a month to build up forces should have been predictable): "Belated Centenary: March 8, 1915: Nusret Lays Her Mines," and "March 18, 1915: The British and French Navies Fail at the Dardanelles."

If, after March 18, the Naval defeat had doomed the landings, were there alternative strategies? Though Churchill and the Admiralty were wedded to Gallipoli, Lord Kitchener and the War Office preferred the idea of a landing at Alexandretta in Syria, and T,E. Lawrence became a champion of the idea. Earlier this year, I compared the plans and asked, "A Historical "What If?": Could the Alexandretta Landing in 1915 Have Worked While Gallipoli Failed?" That post contains links to several others on the Alexandretta scheme, and you can judge for yourself.

On the ground front, we met the ANZAC Commander in my post on "The Birth of ANZAC: 'Birdy' Birdwood is Ordered to Egypt, December 1914."

In the mythologies of competing nationalisms, Turkish nationalists often forget that the Ottoman armies came from all over the Empire. And Arab nationalists often portray the Arab provinces as solidly behind the Arab Revolt. But the future "Father Turk: himself, Mustafa Kemal, rose to fame commanding the 19th Division at Gallipoli, we forget that two of its three regiments were in fact raised in Syria: "Lost in the Dueling Nationalist Mythologies: The Forgotten Syrians at Gallipoli." They were Arabs and Kurds and Turkmen, and tend to be overlooked.

And for Armistice Day/Remembrance Day two years ago, I published photos of the Atatürk Memorials at the ANZAC Parade in Canberra (the only monument to an enemy commander) and the similar monument at Wellington, both of which bear the same quote as the Atatürk monument at Gallipoli:
Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives... you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours... You the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears. Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.
It's a fitting tribute to the men on both sides who fought for a barren peninsula a century ago because they were, as someone (attributed to numerous people) once said of British soldiers, "they fight like lions, but they are lions led by donkeys."  (You will notice in all this I have not discussed the overall British commander, General Sir Ian Hamilton. This is to avoid having to use four-letter profanity on a solemn day remembering those who died by his blunders.)

Now, the multimedia:

Here is a silent early Turkish film clip of troops during the Gallipoli campaign:

An ANZAC fim restored by New Zealand Director Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings fame:

And finally,a song I've used before, the Scots/Australian folk singer Eric Bogle's antiwar lament, "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda," Bogle himself sings the audio; the first half of the pictures,  are of ANZACs a Gallipoli; the second half honors Canadian forces in more recent wars (I presume the clip was made by a Canadian):


Anonymous said...

Join the club...re: the forgotten Syrians of Gallipoli. Another nation that has been conveniently forgotten by both sides are the Germans. The commander of the 5th Army of the Ottoman Empire was German general Otto Liman von Sanders. Quite a few of the officers were also German plus a few fighting men, probably about 3000. About 200 died. Many Turkish officers were German trained. Germany also provided logistics and material.
See Edward J. Erickson 'Gallipoli: the Ottoman Campaign'

Michael Collins Dunn said...

I was well aware of the German role and have previously written about Liman von Sanders' mission and the German roles in Mesopotamia nd elsewhere. I jusrt didn't repeat it here.