The Gallipoli Campaign involved the invasion of the territorial sovereignty of the Ottoman Empire, with the ultimate goal of capturing Istanbul (the Ottoman Capital) and forcing the Ottomans out of WW1.
The Allied strategy assumed that a determined attack would overwhelm the defenders, ensuring a short campaign. Both the initial Naval Campaign and the Amphibious Landings were predicated upon this assumption. However, the naval campaign was abandoned in the face of mounting ship losses, and then the land campaign stalled. The Allies underestimated the tenacity of the Ottoman forces and the willingness of the Turkish soldier to die in the defence of his country.
The Ottoman Empire collapsed in the wake of its defeat in WW1. However, the leadership provided by the Turkish field commander (Mustafa Kemal Atatürk) and the popular memory of the self-sacrifice of the Turkish defenders of the Gallipoli peninsula became central components in the national identity of the modern Turkish Republic.
The following sources provide insights into the mind of the Turkish defender. It is also useful to match the date entries with some of the Allied documents and read them side-by-side.
|Mustafa Kemal , ‘Orders to His Troops’||On the morning of 25 April 1915, Australian and New Zealand troops were fighting their way up the heights of Chunuk Bair from the beach at Anzac Cove. Blocking their path was the Turkish 57th Infantry Regiment. The Turkish soldiers were outnumbered and out of ammunition.Lieutenant-Colonel Mustafa Kemal, commander of the 19th Division, gave the following order:I do not order you to fight, I order you to die. In the time which passes until we die, other troops and commanders can come forward and take our places.
Kemal later wrote that the 57th Regiment was “a famous regiment this, because it was completely wiped out.”
Kemal’s order is commemorated in a memorial to the 57th Regiment erected by the Turkish Ministry of Culture in 1992.
|Turkish OC of 1/33 IR diary up until his death, 30 April 1915||The Turkish officer commanding the 1st Battalion of the 33rd Infrantry Regiment maintained a diary during the earliest days of the Allied Landings. The diary was recovered by an Australian soldier from his dead body on 30th April 1915.Extract dated 27 April 1915:the three companies of our Battalion were told to extend in line, and attack in open order…our men continued to advance but these movements were impeded by some pine trees…however our men loved to use the bayonet, advanced continuously but at the moment, when they were about to drive the enemy into the sea, it was impossible to stop the fusillade…Orders were given to withdraw to a distance of 250 to 300 metres.Website Resource:|
|Questions to the Turkish General Staff (1919)||At the end of WW1, CEW Bean (Australian correspondent, and author of the Official Australian War History) was able to speak directly to members of the Turkish General Staff. Some of his research is listed below.|
||Part 1 contains Questions 1-8 concerning the Turkish deployment at the time of the landings.Web Resource:|
||Part 2 contains Questions 11-28 concerning the Turkish response to the landings.Web Resource:|
||Part 3 contains Questions 29-44 concerning the early battles following the landings.Web Resource:|
||Part 4 contains Questions 45-72 concerning the May to August battles.
||Part 5 contains Questions 73-80 concerning the August battles.Web Resource:|
||Part 6 contains Questions 81-102 concerning the August to December battles; also some summary observations of the campaign.Web Resource:|
||Part 7 contains Questions 103-111 concerning the some observations of the campaign.Web Resource:|
||Part 8 contains Questions assorted questions covering different parts of the campaign.Web Resource:|
||Part 9 contains Questions assorted questions covering different parts of the campaign.Web Resource:|
|Lt-Col. Sefik Aker Account (The Dardanelles – The Ariburnu Battles and the 27th Regiment, 1935)||Lieutenant Colonel Sefik Aker, CO of the 27th Infantry Regiment, wrote his account of the campaign and his regiment’s struggle against Australian forces.Extract from 25 April 1915, defence of Ariburnu (Anzac Cove):I ordered firing to opened from 1300 metres. The two Battalions in the Haintepe trenches a little way in front of us had been drawn into the fighting from the start. Torpedo boats towed the enemy craft which they had been towing. The torpedo boats then withdrew, firing continuously. The craft at which we were firing remained from the shore because the coastal waters were shallow. Some of the enemy troops were hit and stayed in the craft. Those who were not hit jumped into the sea and only five or ten men escaped by getting into our dead area.Web Resource:
|Ali Demirel Account (oral account, 1981)||Personal account of a soldier in the Turkish 27th Infrantry Regiment, who served through the Gallipoli Campaign.…Our Company’s position was in Kaba Tepe. On the day when the enemy landed, 1st and 3rd Squads were at Maidos. Only we were in the Anzac Cove. Later the 1st and 3rd Squads came. The enemy charged at us. We counter-attacked. All the officers in our regiment were shot. Eyup Sabri of Lapseki took command of the Company. He was a sergeant.Web Resource:|
|Halil Koc Account (oral account, 1981)||Personal account of a soldier in the Turkish 27th Infrantry Regiment, who served through the Gallipoli Campaign.…They have commanded us to attack at 9 o’clock to Kanli Sirt (Quinn’s Post). As we arrived at Kanli Sirt, we saw thousands of dead men. We slipped down through them. We could see the enemy bayonets in their position. We were shooting to their trenches. All my friends had died there. Only I have remained….Then a stone hit my head. .. I have learnt that, the thing hit my head has not a stone but a piece of shrapnel. I was taken to Demetoka Hospital, in Biga. They had taken out that shrapnel piece. It has been sixty years. I stayed in the hospital for a month.Web Resource:|
|A Brief History of the Canakkale Campaign in the First World War, June 1914 – January 1916 (2004)||Published by the Turkish General Staff Directorate of Military History and Strategic Studies and Directorate of Inspection Publications, this document provides an insight into the Turkish view of the campaign (a viewpoint traditionally absent from English language accounts).[of the Allied Strategy] For an effective surprise landing the first landing was to be performed during the night. The whole corps would advance forward rapidly, paralyze (sic) the defense (sic) lines, then seize the hills dominating the strait, and marching over to Eceabat line would protect the northern flank of the forces landing on Seddulbahir region.The plan was also suggested the breaking of the connection of the Turkish Forces with the shoreline; and the issuing of further orders from the General Headquarters for an attack on the Kilitbahir Plateau.The main characteristic of the plan. was that it was a reflection of the despising and optimistic attitude of the English, as it did not give importance to the factors like range, time, topology, and the strength and the willpower of the defense (sic) units. Nevertheless, the realities of the battlefield would eventually clarify the reasons of disappointments.
 Erickson, Edward, Ordered to Die: A History of the Ottoman Army in the First World War, 2000, p.XV quoted http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Gallipoli#Land_campaign
 Mustafa Kemal, cited in Edward J Erickson, Ordered to Die: A History of the Ottoman Army in the First World War, Wesport, CT: Greenwood Press 2001, p.83, from Michael Hickey, Gallipoli, London: John Murray, 1995, p.119.
 Note: The online English translation appears quite disjointed and does not flow properly. Therefore a number of lines have been displayed to provide a feel for this officer’s experiences.