Gal­lipoli

By Alan Moore­head

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - THE GUIDE -

(Au­rum Press, 384 pages, £25) A cen­tury af­ter the at­tempt by Bri­tain and her al­lies to force the Dar­danelles Straits and, by cap­tur­ing Con­stantino­ple, knock Ger­many’s ally Turkey out of the First World War, it’s good to see a re­print of a clas­sic­sic ac­count of the cam­paign. First pub­lished in 1956 and writ­ten by an ex­pe­ri­enced war correspondent, this book re­mains a highly read­able ac­count.

An ini­tial naval at­tempt to force the straits was foiled by poor plan­ning, bad luck and de­ter­mined Turk­ish re­sis­tance. Troops were landed to clear the guns that dom­i­nated the straits but met fierce re­sis­tance from the few Turk­ish troops on the penin­sula. The men who got ashore dug in and, for the next eight months, bat­tled to ex­pand their tiny bridge­heads. It was trench warfare at its worst, made more hideous by the heat and in­san­i­tary con­di­tions. Aus­tralian and New Zealand troops (AN­ZACS) fought their first bat­tles here and Gal­lipoli re­mains cen­tral to their na­tional iden­ti­ties.

The only ma­jor suc­cess of the cam­paign was the to­tal evac­u­a­tion of the penin­sula with­out a sin­gle ca­su­alty. Units were marched silently to the beaches and taken off in the dark. In day­light, groups of men ap­peared to be un­load­ing stores and car­ry­ing them in­land as usual. The ar­tillery grad­u­ally re­duced its fir­ing and the trench gar­risons were thinned out un­til on 20 De­cem­ber the north­ern bridge­heads were evac­u­ated and, a few days later, the other beaches.

It was a cam­paign fought in the face of bad gen­er­al­ship and con­fu­sion among the politi­cians di­rect­ing the war and, in ret­ro­spect, was un­likely to have ever suc­ceeded.

Though the cam­paign is cov­ered from the high­est level, with few of the in­di­vid­ual sol­diers’ sto­ries that pep­per more re­cent ac­counts, this book is an ex­cel­lent read and in­tro­duc­tion to the fight­ing that went on.

Phil To­maselli is a mil­i­tary fam­ily

his­tory ex­pert

Mem­bers of the Bri­tish Royal Naval Divi­sion on the at­tack at Gal­lipoli in April 1915

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