Dardanelles campaign

Gallipoli 1915 turned out to be a total disaster for Britain, but the real question is: why was it such a failure? Was it because of the lack of knowledge that went into the planning and preparation of the campaign? Was it the disgraceful leadership that made it what it was? Or could it have been the terrible plan of attack and weak fighting the British put against the underestimated Turkish defences? Or was it the inadequate forces and supplies that caused the British their battle? All these factors were partly responsible for the British failure to break the stalemate, but one of them had the biggest effect on the Allies destiny.

The planning of the campaign was worsened by the lack of knowledge of the Turkish defences, including the 403 lines of mines, which were found on the Dardanelles, where the British lost three battleships and 700 men. The extent of unawareness can be seen on a map showing Sir Ian Hamilton’s plan of attack, on which nearly all landing beaches are covered in forts, and the mines previously mentioned can be seen clearly, almost following the Navy route. According to the DVD: ‘Disaster of Gallipoli’, the maps were around 60 years out of date and the ariel surveillance was very primitive, being only line drawings drawn from a boat not far off the coast. This lead to chosen landing areas being inappropriate, for example ‘W beach’, was surrounded by cliffs, from which the Turks could quite easily shoot down on them and they would have no way of escaping.

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It was also thought that the Turks were much underestimated and that the whole campaign was presented as an attractive vision of what could be achieved. Governments guessed that if the British fleet came within range of the Turkish capital, the Turkish would immediately surrender. On which no reason can be found, why this assumption should have been made. In the report: ‘Gallipoli 1915’, the author Paul Chapman thinks that “sufficient consideration was not given”, “difficulties underestimated”, “all decisions and provisions based on the assumption resistance would be slight and advance rapid” and “success in Dardanelles only possible if government concentrated their efforts upon enterprise and limited expenditure of men and material.” This clearly suggests that any plans that were made were to be useless, as the British were entirely unaware of just how much the Turkish defences had improved.

Secondly, the amount of poor command also contributed to failure of the battle of Gallipoli, three main culprits of bad leadership being Churchill, Hamilton and Kitchener. Firstly Winston Churchill, the then current prime minister of England, who was also the Head of the Royal Navy, and this, may have caused his following choices. Churchill was very keen on using only the Navy and British sea power to force their way through the Dardanelles and knock the Turkish out of the war. He persuaded Kitchener to make this decision, perhaps only to use something that was his own that he thought was the strongest method. This later cost them three battleships and a delay in landings that had a huge negative effect on later battles to come.

Lord Kitchener was also at fault being the person who selected Sir Ian Hamilton when he was aware of his injuries. In an extract of Paul Chapman’s report, ‘Sir Ian Hamilton’s military career’, it states that he had preciously injured his left wrist in ‘Battle of Majuba’ and his left leg was ‘permanently injured’. Because of this, Kitchener could have made an unwise choice and overlooked how his disability might have held him back. Kitchener had also proved to be quite ignorant and stubborn, when he refused to listen to the many people telling him that 75,000 men would not be enough and he would need 150,000 for the battle to be successful. This was again very unwise, and could have been a changing point in the long run.

The experienced and intelligent commander, Sir Ian Hamilton’s career was destroyed after his terrible performance and eventual sacking from his duty in Gallipoli. It can be seen why in the report by Paul Chapman, an extract written by an A.J.P.Taylor, criticises Hamilton’s performance. “Hamilton has designed his strategy well, but he was too polite to be a good general in the field”, he writes along with suggesting he was “out of touch with events.” It was also said in this report that Hamilton “allowed his subordinate commanders considerable discretion in devising their own tactics”, which caused a couple of cases of bad planning, resulting in disaster, including: Anzac Cove General Birdwood, who landed men in darkness, leading to much confusion. Another was General Hunter Wilson, who landed after dawn, this, however, allowed the Turks a far greater chance of firing on his men.

Gallipoli trench design was also a problem. The DVD ‘Gallipoli: History in the Depths’ suggests that trenches were badly dug, with no cover and intertwined with the Turkish trenches, so much so that they could hear each other’s plans. This made planning an attack very difficult and trench fighting was unlikely to have a surprise effect if the Turks were fully aware of what their opponent’s intentions were and was one example of the badly organised, British efforts. Turkish trenches, however, in the Dvd ‘Disaster of Gallipoli’, were built on the higher ground and followed the curve of the hills, which with their heavy weaponry, surrounded the Allies and allowed them to be shot from any possible angle.

Similarly, delay in attacks because of various reasons, often wasted their chances to break the stalemate, acting as an alert for the Turks every time. This all began from the very first Navy attack, as soon as the Turks knew about the battleship failure, they immediately began to work on their defences, and the extra time taken for Kitchener to decide the soldiers were the only substitution, they a whole two months of preparation time. From here on in the Brits decision-making was hesitant and indecisive, making the Turkish always one step ahead. Despite hesitating to make any quick decisions on their battle plans, they failed to think things through previously, and always settled for the first landing beach they could find, from ‘Gallipoli: History in the Depths’, without knowledge of what was there and where the Turks were, it could have been risky and many men lost their weapons. ‘Disaster in Gallipoli’ says that many attacks were delayed due to very poor communication.

Brought all the way from Egypt, 600 miles away, as the nearest British base, supplies were an issue for the Allies. The heat would obviously come with thirst and dehydration, and the men were not supplied with adequate uniforms for the weather and lacked enough water for both drinking and personal hygiene, which was a disadvantage that went against the British, the Turkish base having a regular supply of water. Some of the Anzac’s were reduced to drinking seawater, causing further thirst, the salt worsening the dehydration already present. The necessary elements of a good diet were also not supplied for the soldiers, again unlike the Turks, the British had to put up with salty, fatty, bully beef, which along with the absence of vegetables was one of the main causes of the mass disease: disentry.

The diseases were infecting men at an alarming rate and the medical supplies were very low. The hospital ships were too full of casualties to cope and the doctors often told false information of the men’s fate, soldiers waited hours and hours to be seen to and clean beds, pyjamas or mosquito nets were rare. Dentists were too an extreme rarity, and any man with a broken tooth would often just have to put up with it.

Hamilton was another affected by the inadequate forces and supplies from Britain. The report previously mentioned, written by Paul Chapman, says that “Hamilton was sent off with great haste, insufficient staff support, inadequate maps and badly loaded ships”, similarly, “he was not allowed the reserves to compensate incurred or the level of shells and other ammunition that would be required for heavy fighting. He was refused military aircraft and an additional brigade of Indian troops that he asked for.” Chapman perhaps having the opinion that the lack of supplies was more to blame than Hamilton’s behaviour, for his eventual sacking and career ruined.

Therefore, in conclusion, as the factor with most evidence to back it up, from various sources, I think that the inadequate forces and supplies from Britain was most to blame for the unshapely end to the battle of Gallipoli. Despite the other reasons being very important, poor leadership and bad organisation, perhaps even ill-thought-out planning was partly caused by the lacking of forces necessary, somewhat in my opinion, therefore the most valuable factor, that was not rightly in existence.

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