With the entry of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire into WW1 in October 1914, Britain and France sought a way to defeat quickly their new enemy. Turkey represented both a powerful addition to the Central Powers while also blocking Imperial Russia’s sea lanes through the Black Sea to the outside world.
The Gallipoli Campaign focussed on control of the Gallipoli Peninsula and the Dardanelles (the straits that linked the Mediterranean Sea to the Sea of Marmara), Istanbul (the capital of the Ottoman Empire) and access to the Black Sea. Between the entry of Ottoman Empire into WW1 (October 1914) and early 1916, Allied and Turkish forces battled furiously for control of this area. At stake was control of the sea-lane between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, and the continued participation of both Imperial Russia and Ottoman Turkey in WW1.
From late 1914, an Anglo-French naval force was assembled to force its way through the Dardanelles straits into the Sea of Marmara and to reach the Ottoman capital. The Allied planners knew that the Dardanelles and the Sea of Marmara was protected by coastal forts and naval forces. However, it was assumed (wrongly) that the defences would not be strong enough to prevent an Allied naval task force forcing its way through to Istanbul.
Following the defeat of the naval attacks, Allied planners turned to an amphibious landing in order to open the way through to Istanbul. If sufficient troops could be landed, it was reasoned, the troops could march overland from the Gallipoli Peninsula to Istanbul. Faced with an Allied capture of its capital, the government of the Ottoman Empire would be forced to surrender.
Over the following months, from late April to July, the fighting continued unabated. On each of the local fronts, Allied attacks alternated with Turkish attacks. In each case, attacks achieved little in the face of determined resistance by opposing forces. Both sides experienced heavy casualities. By July, the campaign had reached stalemate, and the early trench systems on both sides had matured into near impenetrable defence systems.
By early August, Sir Ian Hamilton, Allied field commander, was determined to launch a further offensive to break the deadlock. A fresh landing on 6 August at Suvla Bay behind the Turkish front line was intended to occur in concert with attacks from the Anzac sector and a diversionary attack from Helles.
Following the failure of the August offensive, further operational momentum was lost. The Allied forces consolidated their positions and the Allied Command re-considered their next move. Meanwhile, Bulgaria entered WW1 on the side of the Central Powers. This forced the Allies to open a second Mediterranean front at Salonika in October 1915. Faced with competing demands, and clear failure at Gallipoli, the Allied Command replaced Sir Ian Hamilton as Field Commander and planned an evacuation.
Almost 400,000 casualties were incurred by the opposing forces: over 21,000 British (dead), 27,169 French, 28,150 Australian, 7,473 New Zealand, 4,779 Indian, 142 Newfoundland, and 392,338 Turkish casualties. After more than a year of naval and land operations, the Allied forces were soundly defeated. Further, the Allied leadership was revealed as (at best) disorganised if not dangerously incompetent. Nevertheless, the rank and file soldiers on both sides displayed extraordinary courage and resilience: the Turkish soldier fought ferociously in defence of his country, whilst the Allied soldier (in most cases, wartime volunteers) fought with reckless courage in the cause of patriotism.
Movies and TV Adaptations
Due to the enduring popular memory of the campaign, the Gallipoli Campaign has been the subject of many movies, television documentaries and television series.
Original Film Footage of the Gallipoli Campaign
WW1 occurred during the formative years of the motion picture industry. Film footage was captured for journalistic and propaganda reasons. In some cases the film footage captures actual events; in other cases, the subject material was staged for the camera. The surviving footage provides an important historical record – in some cases it offers eyewitness testimony of major events; in other cases, it provides an insight into the lives of ordinary soldiers, sailors and civilians.
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