what happened on 25 April 1915?
It was at 4:29 am in the eerie pre-dawn on 25 April 1915
when a Turkish outpost signalled the alarm. Below, barely discernible on the
dark waters off Ari Burnu, a small plateau jutting out into the Aegean Sea,
steamboats towed rowboats carrying Australians to the Gallipoli shoreline.
There are very few instances in which the deeds
of ordinary people fashion a whole chapter in a nation’s history and forge
a national identity. This first wave of the Australian and New Zealand Army
Corps (ANZAC) was doing just that. A minute later, the first boatloads reached
the shingly beach and clambered out, under fire.
The landing at Gallipoli was one of the more imaginative
strategies of the First World War. In eastern Europe the Germans had delivered
a series of blows to the Russians who, fearing a second offensive by Turkish
forces from the south, appealed to their allies for assistance. Hard-pressed by
the Germans on the Western Front and with Egypt threatened by the Turks, the
British and French could not afford for the Russians to collapse. They agreed
to attack Turkey. Their objective was to wrest control of the Dardanelles and
re-establish sea communications with Russia through the Black Sea.
An attempt by warships in February and March 1915 to break
through the straits was defeated. A plan to land troops at Gallipoli was then
drawn up. It was actually a series of landings, originally planned for
23 April, but pushed back by bad weather:
- the main landing by British troops at Cape Helles, in the south,
to seize forts and advance north
- across the strait, on the Asiatic side, a landing by French
troops to destroy artillery batteries before withdrawing and going to Cape
at the northern end of the peninsula, near Bulair, where the
peninsula is narrowest, a feint by British marines to confuse the Turks and
in the centre, the landing by Australian and New Zealand troops
to block any Turkish troops retreating from the south and reinforcements coming
from the north.
The plan was for
the Anzac and British troops to link up for a final push across to the
2: Unidentified men from the 1st Divisional Signal Company being towed towards
Anzac Cove on the morning of 25 April 1915. Image courtesy of the Australian
The wrong beach?
Those who landed near Ari Burnu often commented on how they
landed on ‘the wrong beach’. Wrong might be too strong a word but the boats were
certainly more bunched up when they landed about a mile north of the loosely
planned landing site. The reason is unclear, but most likely the naval ratings
taking the troops ashore were disorientated and simply veered left.
This error gave the men a fighting chance. Had they landed
on the ‘correct’ beach near Gaba Tepe, there would have been a slaughter (as at
‘Y’ Beach, one of the British landing sites at Cape Helles). Boats would have
been shot up, and on the beach men would have been caught in barbed wire
entanglements, against well-sited machine-guns. At Ari Burnu, the first wave
came under fire from some of the 200 Turks in position at that time; some boats
landing later were shot up, suffering heavier casualties. Most of the
casualties on that first day occurred as men scrambled up the brush-entangled
gullies leading off the beach, and over the ridges.
A long and terrible day
The objective was Gun Ridge, the third ridgeline inland from
the beach. Troops pushed up and over gullies, ravines and spurs. It was
hard-going under fire, and they broke into smaller groups to advance over
tracks or through undergrowth. They crossed the first ridgeline, some reached
the second and a few got to the third, but they were too scattered to hold on.
3: An excerpt from the 10th Infantry Battalion’s War Diary describing the
landing at ANZAC Cove on 25 April 1915. The 3rd Brigade, which included the
10th Battalion, made up the screening force for the landing and was the first
ashore. This excerpt includes the line ‘our landing was to be effected quite
unopposed’. Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.
As the day wore on, the remainder of the ANZAC landed. There
was confusion on the beach, as new troops and wounded men intermingled. ‘Stragglers’
(men separated from their units) were found at the beach or sheltering in the
gullies, but officers led many of them back into action.
The Turkish local commander, Mustapha Kemal (later, Kemal
Ataturk, President of Turkey) organised his force and counter-attacked. The
Turks secured the high ground and pushed on. An evacuation of the ANZAC was
suggested, but naval advice was that it would be impossible. With nowhere to
retreat, the Australians and New Zealanders dug in. They fought tenaciously,
with mounting casualties, to cling onto a small strip of land that came to be
The landing itself was a failure. The impossible had been
asked of the men. There was no way that any troops could have landed, advanced
four miles across hard terrain, taken a 4–5 mile stretch of ridgeline, and then
withstood strong counter-attacks—all in the course of one day. What they did
achieve was to secure a foothold and forge a legend.
The Gallipoli campaign cost the lives of more than 40,000
British Empire and French troops and 85,000 Turks.
Chronology of significant
events during the remainder of the year
On 29 April 1915 HMAS AE2 was
sunk in the Sea of Marmara. AE2 was the first submarine to penetrate the
Dardanelles. For five days the AE2 carried out orders to disrupt Turkish
shipping. When her torpedoes were spent and she was attacked by Turkish
gunboats, the submarine was scuttled and her crew captured.
AE2’s commanding officer Captain Stoker was one of the
subjects of the Defence Honours and Awards Tribunal’s Inquiry into unresolved recognition for past acts of naval and
military gallantry and valour. The Tribunal’s 2013 report
recommended that no further action be taken, stating:
The Tribunal therefore concluded that on both process and
merits, the case was properly considered at the time, followed due process correctly
and that Lieutenant Commander Stoker was appropriately honoured with a DSO
[Distinguished Service Order].
On 15 May the Commander of the First Division AIF, Major General WT Bridges was
shot in the leg by a sniper. He was evacuated immediately but died on 18 May
while being transported to Egypt for treatment. His body was returned to
Australia (the only person to receive this treatment until the Unknown Soldier
in 1993) and his
grave overlooks the Royal Military College, Duntroon.
On 18 May the Turks launched a major counter-attack, but by
this time the Australian and New Zealand troops had had time to prepare proper
defensive positions and the resultant slaughter of the Turkish forces is
thought to have left 10,000 men dead or wounded. The stench of the dead bodies
was so great that on 24 May a formal truce was declared to allow the Turkish
dead to be buried. This was the last time that the Turkish forces attempted a
With the failure of the May counter-attack things quietened
down until August, when British troops landed at nearby Suvla, and the Anzacs
and Gurkhas made supporting attacks at Lone Pine, Chunuk Bair and the Nek.
August offensive at Anzac’ Robin Prior
takes a new look at the strategy underlying the series of attacks at places
such as Lone Pine, Nek, Chunuk Bair, Hill Q and Hill 971 (Wartime, vol. 47, 2009).
Battle for Lone Pine began on 6 August. The Lone Pine operation was planned
as a diversion to draw Turkish reserves away from a major British attack to be
launched at the northern end of the Australian and New Zealand position at
Gallipoli. The Australians suffered more than 2,200 casualties at Lone Pine and
the Turks over 5,000. Historian Peter Burness describes the battle and sets it
in context in this
article in Wartime.
Seven Australians were awarded the Victoria Cross
for their bravery at Lone Pine. They are: Alexander Stewart BURTON, William
DUNSTAN, John (Patrick) HAMILTON, Leonard Maurice KEYSOR, Alfred John SHOUT,
William John SYMONS and Frederick Harold TUBB.
4: Lieutenant (later Captain) William Symon’s
Victoria Cross citation, for action during the Battle for Lone Pine. Image courtesy of the National Archives of
On 7 August, units of the 3rd Light
Horse Brigade fighting as infantry attacked the Turks at the Nek (also
known as the Battle of Sari Bair) with horrific results. The pre-attack
artillery bombardment had ceased seven minutes early and New Zealand troops
scheduled to attack from a different approach were unable to do so. The result
was that 234 men of the 600 strong force lay dead and little was achieved.
The fighting at Hill 60 on 21 and 27
August in which Australian troops gave support to a larger British assault was
the last major action of the Gallipoli campaign. The all-too-obvious stalemate
of the campaign and the deterioration of the weather as winter approached
convinced the high command that it was time to evacuate the troops. The
evacuation is universally regarded as the best planned part of the whole
venture thanks to the work of Major-General Birdwood’s Chief of
Staff Brigadier General CBB
of Anzac and Suvla began on 7 December and was completed by 20
On 20 April 2009 the Australian Broadcasting Corporation
released an online resource, Gallipoli: the first day.
first: ABC relives Gallipoli online’, Lara Sinclair describes the new
interactive website, outlining the sources and methods the ABC used to enable
users to experience the first 24 hours of the Gallipoli campaign (Australian, 20 April 2009).
frequently asked questions
Why did the Anzacs land at
They were part of a British-French force attempting to
capture the Dardanelles and open a route to Russia through the Black Sea. They
were selected because their training had progressed and being based in Egypt,
they were readily available.
Who was first ashore?
We can never know for certain. An article
by Peter Burness in the Australian War Memorial’s Wartime magazine
discusses the claims of three men. CEW Bean, official historian, concluded it
was possibly Lieutenant Duncan Chapman, 9th Battalion. The Queenslander wrote
home: ‘I happened to be in the first boat that reached the shore, and, being in
the bow at the time, I was the first man to get ashore’. One of his men later
confirmed this. Chapman was killed at Pozieres, France on 6 August 1916.
How many Australians died on
the first day?
We do not really know. In bitter fighting after the landing,
the details of many men’s deaths were sketchy.
First to Fall, a CD-ROM by the Australian Defence Force Academy,
names 621 men. The Roll of Honour lists 752 men as having died on 25 April 1915,
although some of these are deaths are administratively classified as ‘on or
about’ 25 April, and could have been later. Statistics of the Military effort of the British Empire during the
Great War, 1914-1920, provides a figure of 860
deaths from all causes between 25 April and 30 April.
When did the Gallipoli
The evacuation of Anzac and Suvla was completed on 20
December 1915, a few days short of eight months after the landing. The campaign
ended on 9 January 1916 when British forces completed the evacuation of
What other nationalities were
The First World War was fought by competing empires, albeit
empires in decline and inevitably the men who fought came from different parts
of the globe. The British-French force included men from these countries and
their colonies. The ‘French’ included people born in France but also Senegalese
as well as other colonial troops. The ‘British’ included Englishmen, Irishmen,
Welshmen, Scots, Indians, Gurkhas, Australians, New Zealanders and
The ‘Turks’ were mostly Turkish, but many were from other
parts of the Ottoman Empire. Indeed journalist Robert Fisk points
out that two-thirds of the 19th Division, the first to face the Anzacs,
were Syrian Arabs.
Where else at Gallipoli did
the Anzacs serve?
In early May the 2nd Infantry Brigade and New Zealand
Infantry Brigade re-embarked and sailed to Cape Helles. They were thrown into
the Second Battle of Krithia. More than 1,800 Anzacs (about a third of the two
brigades) were killed or wounded there. The survivors returned to Anzac. In
August, the RAN Bridging Train landed at Suvla, north of Anzac, building
wharves after the British landing there.
Were the British really ‘drinking
When British troops landed at Suvla in August, the Anzacs
were fighting and dying at Lone Pine, Chunuk Bair and the Nek. Peter Weir’s
1981 film Gallipoli made famous a story that the Anzacs could see the
British ‘drinking tea’. This left a poor impression of British soldiers. The
Suvla landing was poorly planned, and confusion on the beaches meant some units
had no option but to congregate and wait for orders. Soldiers of any
nationality would have taken this chance to ‘brew up’. Meanwhile, further
inland, British soldiers were fighting courageously. The loss of 1,700 men
killed or wounded in the first 24 hours is testimony to this.
Why wasn’t Simpson decorated?
‘The man with the donkey’ actually was decorated. Private
John Simpson Kirkpatrick, 3rd Field Ambulance, was killed on 19 May 1915 and
posthumously Mentioned in Despatches for his transporting of wounded men. This
was noted in The London Gazette on 5 November 1915, and in the Commonwealth
of Australia Gazette on 27 January 1916. This honour was rare. Other than
the Victoria Cross, it was the only honour able to be granted to a man killed
in action. Of the 60,000 Australians who died in the Great War, only about 220
were accorded this
5: Private John Simpson Kirkpatrick assisting an unidentified soldier,
Gallipoli, circa May 1915. Image courtesy of the Australian
honour. Simpson’s medals are held by the Australian War
Memorial. They include his Victory Medal, with the Mentioned-in-Despatches
rosette on its ribbon. Simpson and his donkey are still the subject of vigorous
discussion. In ‘The
donkey vote; a VC for Simpson—the case against’, Graham Wilson argues that ‘Simpson
was no braver than any other man on the Gallipoli Peninsula’, and that the
campaign to have Simpson posthumously awarded a Victoria Cross or an Australian
Victoria Cross is ‘impossible and inappropriate’ (Sabretache, December 2006). Wilson later expanded his views
in a book, Dust
donkeys and delusions: the myth of Simpson and his donkey (Big Sky
Publishing, 2012). In ‘The
man with the donkey: hero or fraud’, Dr Tom Curran challenges critics who
have refuted aspects of the story of Simpson (Sabretache,
The Defence Honours and Awards Tribunal considered the
merits of the case for awarding Simpson a Victoria Cross as a part of its 2013 Inquiry into unresolved recognition for past acts of naval and
military gallantry and valour. In recommending that
no action be taken the Tribunal noted:
Some submitters suggested that Simpson deserved a VC because
he represented what it means to be Australian, and there was strong community
support for such recognition. While this might be a popular proposition, the VC
can only be awarded for valorous conduct in the presence of the enemy. The
Tribunal found that Simpson’s initiative and bravery were representative of all
other stretcher-bearers of 3rd Field Ambulance, and that bravery was
appropriately recognised as such by the award of an MID.
How many Australians died at
We do not really know. The estimate provided by
the Australian War Memorial is 8,141 but, as is the case with virtually all
casualty figures, this number has varied somewhat over the years and slightly
different figures are cited in other sources.
The 8,141 figure is drawn from the War Office’s Statistics
of the Military Effort of the British Empire during the Great War, 1914–1920.
This figure is for deaths up to 16 January 1916 and might not include deaths
after this date which resulted from wounds received before the evacuation. On
page 239, Australian deaths are given as 362 officers and 7,779 other ranks (a
total of 8,141), but on page 286 a table of month-by-month deaths is stated as
adding up to 371 officers and 8,338 other ranks (a total of 8,709). Examination
of the War Office table reveals that staff got their tallying up wrong. The
monthly deaths actually add up to 359 officers and 7,800 other ranks, which
equals 8,159. Robin Prior in his book Gallipoli: the end of the myth
(University of New South Wales Press, 2009) quotes the British Official History
figure of 7,825 killed.
Given that the War Office’s lower number and the corrected
sum of monthly deaths are close, that Australian official medical history
statistics are reasonably close, and that the Roll of Honour for this period
would be close too once unrelated deaths (from illnesses and accidents in
Australia, at sea or in Egypt) are taken into account, then a revised estimate
of the number of Australians who died in the Gallipoli Campaign could be around
British casualties were around 120,000. French 27,000 and
Turkish figure, while uncertain is thought to be over 220,000.
- a summary
of the Gallipoli Campaign from The Oxford Companion to Australian
Military History—includes maps.
summary of the Gallipoli Campaign from the 1990 media kit issued to assist
Australia’s 75th anniversary official commemorative visit.
- Gallipoli and the Anzacs
website—commissioned by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and developed by
the Board of Studies, NSW. Contains new and historical material on Gallipoli.
- the Epitaphs of Gallipoli, a website developed by the Gallipoli Association
detailing the headstone inscriptions of Australian and New Zealand soldiers
with known graves on the Gallipoli Peninsula.
accounts of the Gallipoli Campaign
Bean’s first report of the Anzac landings at Gallipoli was published in the
Commonwealth Gazette on 17 May 1915. At this point Bean was the
official press representative with the Australian Expeditionary Force.
Figure 6: On 17 May 1915, CEW
Bean’s first report from Gallipoli was published in the Commonwealth of
Australia Gazette. Image courtesy of the National Library of Australia.
British War correspondent, Ellis
Ashmead-Bartlett’s first-hand reports on the Anzac landing at Gallipoli
praised the courage of the ‘raw’ Australian and New Zealand troops.
Ashmead-Bartlett became frustrated and disillusioned with the course of the
campaign, and with the difficulties placed in the path of his reporting. In
concert with the Australian journalist, Keith Murdoch, he attempted to circumvent the
military censorship imposed by General Sir Ian Hamilton. Murdoch left
Gallipoli with Ashmead-Bartlett’s
letter to British Prime Minister Asquith which contributed to the
withdrawal of troops from the Peninsula and the downfall of Sir Ian Hamilton.
nationhood, brotherhood and sacrifice’, chapter four of Bill Gammage’s The
broken years: Australian soldiers in the Great War, the author has used
first-hand accounts of the Gallipoli Campaign by Australian soldiers to explore
their attitudes to the war; to the fighting; to their British allies and their
Turkish opponents; and to the death of comrades.
In this extract from The story of Anzac, volume 1 of the
official history of Australia in the war of 1914–1918, CEW Bean, the
official historian, summarises the course of the
Gallipoli campaign from the landings to the end of the first phase in early
May 1915 when the advance of the British forces at both Gaba Tepe and Cape Helles
had been brought to a standstill. Bean discusses Australian successes and
failures in the early phase of the campaign up to Sir Ian Hamilton’s decision
that the next thrust of the battle should be at Helles rather than at Anzac.
Australian women served as nurses in the
Australian Army Nursing Service. The women served on hospital ships close to
the shore at Gallipoli and also on the Greek islands of Lemnos and Imbros as
well as back in Alexandria. Like the men, for most of these women this would
have been their first experience of war and they worked with inadequate
conditions and equipment.
Jan Bassett, writing in her book Guns and brooches:
Australian Army nursing from the Boer War to the Gulf War (Oxford
University Press, 1992) quotes Sister Ilma Lovell about conditions on the
hospital ship Formosa off Suvla Bay in early August 1915:
We were receiving wounded all night and terrible wounds they
were—the majority of them were fly blown and septic. All were operated upon on
admission and the little theatre was kept busy all night—limbs, had they been
able to have been treated before and would have been saved, had to be
M Tyquin, Gallipoli: the medical war :
the Australian Army medical services in the Dardanelles Campaign of 1915,
NSW University Press, Kensington, 1993.
An article by Robert Manne, ‘A
Turkish tale: Gallipoli and the Armenian genocide’, explores possible
connections between the two events (Monthly,
February 2007, pp. 20–28).
The following articles are from Wartime, a journal published by the Australian War
- N Steel, ‘What
if...? Imagine the Gallipoli landings on 25 April 1915 had succeeded—what then?’
(Wartime, no. 38, 2007, pp.
N Steel, ‘Heroic
sacrifice’ (Wartime, no. 38,
2007, pp. 22–27).
H Broadbent, ‘Gallipoli
from the Turkish perspective’ (Wartime,
no. 38, 2007, pp. 18–21).
R Crawley, ‘Lone
Pine: worth the cost?‘ (Wartime,
no. 38, 2007, pp. 14–17).
- P Hart, ‘War
is Helles: the real fight for Gallipoli’ (Wartime,
no. 38, 2007, pp. 10–12).
a Turkish view’, David Cameron examines the first hours after the landings
from the viewpoint of a company of 250 Turkish soldiers who opposed the ANZACs
(Wartime, no. 42, 2008).
- in ‘Gallipoli’s
first day: Turkish documents separating myth and reality’ Harvey Broadbent
looks at the first day of the campaign using material in Turkish archives (Wartime, no. 46, 2009, pp. 44–47).
C Roberts, ‘Turkish
machine-guns at the landing‘. The author asks whether Australian troops
landing at Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915 were subject to Turkish machine-gun fire
(Wartime, no. 50, April 2010,
P Pedersen, ‘Burning
Bridges‘. A profile of Major-General WT Bridges (Wartime, no. 50, April 2010, pp. 20–25).
P Burness, ‘First
man ashore‘. It is generally accepted that the 9th Battalion was the first
ashore at Gallipoli but who was the first man to reach dry land? (Wartime, no. 50, April 2010, p. 30).
- R Van Dyk, ‘The
evacuation of Anzac‘. Uses unit war diaries to describe the evacuation of
Gallipoli (Wartime, no. 50,
April 2010, pp. 32–36).
war over the Dardanelles’ by Greg Gilbert
explores the contribution of air power to the Dardanelles campaign (Wartime,
day it all went wrong: the naval assault before the Gallipoli landings’ by Peter Hart explores the failed attempt by ships
from the British and French fleets to take the straits during March 1915 (Wartime,
Issue 62, Autumn 2013, pp. 8–13).
first casualty’, Les Carlyon argues that the truth bears more eloquent
witness to the heroics of Gallipoli than the myths that have grown up around it
(Bulletin with Newsweek, 7 August 2001).
lure of Gallipoli’, by Les Carlyon, is an article on the myth, the pride
and the nostalgia evoked by the campaign and its commemoration (Australian
Women’s Weekly, 1 August 2001).
terrible beauty’, the final chapter of his book, Gallipoli, Les
Carlyon summarises the importance of Gallipoli and sketches the fates of a
number of the key protagonists.
myth makers go over the top’, Ray Cassin argues that the prominence of the
Gallipoli myth has served to obscure the sacrifice of soldiers who served in
other campaigns (Age, 24 June 2001).
last Anzac: the fatal shore that defines a nation’, Tony Stephens discusses
where Gallipoli ranks in Australia’s historical picture (Sydney Morning Herald, 17 May 2002).
casualty’, Robin Prior and Trevor Wilson give a summary of the Gallipoli
Campaign and correct ten myths about it (Sydney
Morning Herald, 20 April 2002).
the myths of Gallipoli’ by Ashley Ekins (Bulletin
with Newsweek, 27 April 2004, pp. 30–33.)
wrong place’, WF Refshauge examines the continuing debate about whether the
original landing at Anzac Cove was made at the wrong place (Sabretache,
In Gallipoli: the end of the myth (University of New
South Wales Press, 2009), Robin Prior provides some forceful commentary
on the planning and conduct of the campaign, reaching the conclusion that, even
if it had been successful, the Dardanelles Campaign would not have shortened
biographies contains brief sketches of the most prominent officers and
ordinary soldiers who were involved in the campaign. The Australian War
Memorial’s online encyclopaedia
provides links to a number of Gallipoli biographies including those of CEW Bean and John Simpson Kirkpatrick
(the man with the donkey).
Brief biographical details of Mustapha Kemal (later known as
Ataturk) are available here.
Anzac heroes’, Barry Clissold discusses the men who were awarded the
Distinguished Conduct Medal at Gallipoli and how they ‘set a high standard of
courage for a young nation in its first major engagement’ (Wartime, no.
then and now
- short descriptions of points
of significance on the Gallipoli Peninsula, including Lone Pine, the Nek
and Hill 60, Quinn’s Post, Gaba Tepe and many others
- a relief map
of the Gallipoli Peninsula showing the main features in 1915
- Google map
of Gallipoli, with an option to view satellite imagery revealing the contours
of the coastline
- the Department of Veterans’
Affairs webpages include the Anzac landing at Gallipoli, visiting Gallipoli
today and the Anzac
Commemorative Site, built at Gallipoli with the cooperation of the New
Zealand and Turkish Governments. The Department also has a website with
information and advice for those planning to attend Anzac Day commemorative
services at Gallipoli, and France.
Beach Gallipoli 1915 is a Department of Veterans’ Affairs publication which
describes the Anzac Commemorative Site as it was in 1915.
For copyright reasons some linked items are only available to members of Parliament.
© Commonwealth of Australia
In essence, you are free to copy and communicate this work in its current form for all non-commercial purposes, as long as you attribute the work to the author and abide by the other licence terms. The work cannot be adapted or modified in any way. Content from this publication should be attributed in the following way: Author(s), Title of publication, Series Name and No, Publisher, Date.
To the extent that copyright subsists in third party quotes it remains with the original owner and permission may be required to reuse the material.
Inquiries regarding the licence and any use of the publication are welcome to email@example.com.
This work has been prepared to support the work of the Australian Parliament using information available at the time of production. The views expressed do not reflect an official position of the Parliamentary Library, nor do they constitute professional legal opinion.
Any concerns or complaints should be directed to the Parliamentary Librarian. Parliamentary Library staff are available to discuss the contents of publications with Senators and Members and their staff. To access this service, clients may contact the author or the Library‘s Central Entry Point for referral.