A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, October 29, 2015

October 28, 1915: Sir Charles Monro Relaces Ian Hamilton at Gallipoli

Though this post is technically a day late, or a day early perhaps (see below), it is an attempt to bring our centennial series on the Middle East in the Great War up to speed by returning to the Gallipoli Front where, from mid-October to mid-November, as decisions would be made which would lead to the decision to wind down and evacuate the Dardanelles force.

Gen, Sir Ian Hamilton
On October 16, months after the Gallipoli operation stalled following the Suvla landings in August, General Sir Ian Hamilton, the overall commander, was recalled by Lord Kitchener. Hamilton, despite being one of the more disastrous British generals in a war when Britain produced more than is share of disastrous generals, retired to write books of military memoirs and became head of the veteran's organization, the British Legion, for Scotland. He remained a pillar of the British establishment though, as a leader of the Anglo-German Association, he was an early admirer of Adolf Hitler. Having already been knighted in 1910, he was made a Knight Grand Cross of St. Michael and Saint George (GCMG) in 1919. To be fair, they say he wasn't bad in the Boer War. He lived until 1947 and died at 94.

Gen. Sir Charles Monro
Replacing Hamilton as the Commander-in Chief of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force was General Sir Charles Monro, a veteran of the Boer War and the Western Front. He was also an advocate of the Western Front first approach, though he would end up commanding in the Salonika Front, Mesopotamia, and India before the war was over. As we'll see in the coming weeks, he would also be the advocate of withdrawal from Gallipoli. He arrived at Imbros, the staging area, on October 28, and at Gallipoli October 30, so posting today splits the difference.

He would find support from another direction: the growing demands of the Balkan Front. As I noted in discussing the Mesopotamian Campaign, Bulgaria had finally entered the war on the Central powers side, and promptly attacked Serbia, which was already partly occupied by Austria-Hungary, thus giving the Ottomans the prospect of a direct rail link with Vienna and Germany. Though a bit peripheral to the Middle East proper, the British and French sought to shore up a collapsing Serbia by landing a military force at Salonika (Greek Thessaloniki) in Greece. They did this despite opposition from a divided Greek government. In the end it was too late to save Serbia, so the rationale became defending Greece (whether it liked it or not) against the Ottomans and Bulgarians.

The French would send mostly colonial troops and the Russians and other allies would send token forces, and remnants of the Serbian Army who escaped through Montenegro and were evacuated by Italy would join them, but the obvious source of British Empire troops were the ANZAC, British, and Irish troops stuck at Gallipoli. Already on September 30 the 10th (Irish) Division left Gallipoli, landing at Salonika October 5. The troops on Gallipoli were clearly not going to take Constantinople, so Salonika, despite the crushing of Serbia, and were thus a potential source of troops.

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