Anzac Day 2017
31 March 2017
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Foreign Affairs Defence and
did the Anzacs land at Gallipoli?
The Dardanelles campaign happened in part because the
fighting in Western Europe had reached the first of a long series of stalemates
and in part because, in the east, 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. The British and French agreed
to attack Turkey. Their objective was to wrest control of the Dardanelles and
re-establish sea communications with Russia through the Black Sea and end the
Ottoman Empire’s role in the war.
The Anzacs were part of the
British-French force attempting to capture the Dardanelles and were selected
because their training had progressed and being based in Egypt, they were
What was the plan?
The main landing by British troops at Cape Helles, in the
south, was intended to seize forts and advance north across the strait (see
Figure 1). On the Asiatic side, the purpose of the landing by French troops was
to destroy artillery batteries before withdrawing and going to Cape Helles.
Simultaneously, at the northern end of the peninsula, near Bulair where the
peninsula is narrowest, there was to be a feint by British marines to confuse
the Turks. The landing by the Anzacs in the centre was meant 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
In total, the combined British and French force comprised
around 78,000 men, the adequacy of which had not been seriously considered by
the War Council in London. The Australians and New Zealanders together numbered
they land on the wrong beach?
The Anzac forces landed about a mile north of the loosely planned
landing site. The reason is unclear and has been much debated over the years. Most
likely, the naval ratings taking the troops ashore were disorientated and
simply veered left.
The mistake was probably fortunate. Had they landed on the
‘correct’ beach near Gaba Tepe, there would have been much higher casualty
rates. Troops landing 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. 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. Initially, at least, there were no machine-guns.
Figure 1: map of the Gallipoli Peninsula and the Straits of the Dardanelles showing the site
of the landings and the ground held by British forces April 1915–January 1916.
Source: Department of Veterans’ Affairs website Gallipoli and the Anzacs
Who was first ashore?
We can never know for certain
(see Figure 2). 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.
many Australians died on the first day?
We do not really know. In 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. The War Office’s 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.
Figure 2: unidentified men
from the 1st Divisional Signal Company being towed towards Anzac Cove on the
morning of 25 April 1915.
of the Australian War Memorial
did the Gallipoli campaign end?
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 Cape Helles.
other nationalities were at Gallipoli?
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 Newfoundlanders.
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.
Books which tell
something of the Turkish story of Gallipoli include:
- H Broadbent, Defending Gallipoli: the Turkish story, Melbourne University Publishing, Carlton, Victoria, 2015.
- K Fewster, V Basarin and HH Basarin, Gallipoli: the Turkish story, Allen and Unwin, 2003.
- E Erickson, Gallipoli: the Ottoman campaign, Pen and Sword, 2010 (reprinted 2015).
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.
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 (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 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’, Tom Curran challenges critics who have
refuted aspects of the story of Simpson (Sabretache, December 2008).
The Defence Honours and Awards Appeal 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.
What else happened 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.
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.
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 look at the strategy
underlying the series of attacks at places such as Lone Pine, Nek, Chunuk Bair,
Hill Q and Hill 971 (Wartime, 47, 2009).
A timeline can be found on the Department of Veterans’ Affairs website Gallipoli
and the Anzacs.
The 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 from Wartime. Seven Australians were awarded the Victoria Cross
for their bravery at Lone Pine. A total of nine Victoria Crosses were
awarded to Australians during the Gallipoli campaign. A list of these men and
numbers of other honours awarded to Australians during the Gallipoli campaign
can be found on the Australian
War Memorial’s website.
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,
who were 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
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 White. The evacuation
of Anzac and Suvla began on 7 December and was completed by 20 December.
many Australians died at Gallipoli?
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 it is stated in a table of month-by-month deaths that
there were 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 (UNSW
Press, 2009), quotes the British Official History figure of 7,825 killed.
casualties were around 120,000. The French incurred 27,000 casualties and a
Turkish figure, while uncertain, is thought to be over 220,000.
Reading about the campaign
- a summary of the Gallipoli campaign from The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History—includes maps
- an excerpt of Denis Winter’s book 25 April 1915—the Inevitable Tragedy (published on the Department of Veterans’ Affairs website ‘Gallipoli and the Anzacs’)
- a brief summary of the Gallipoli campaign from the 1990 media kit issued to assist Australia’s 75th anniversary official commemorative visit
- the 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 website, developed by the Gallipoli Association, details the headstone inscriptions of Australian and New Zealand soldiers with known graves on the Gallipoli Peninsula.
First-hand accounts of the Gallipoli campaign
CEW 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. The first-hand
reports on the Anzac landing at Gallipoli by the British war correspondent,
Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett, 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.
In The Story of Anzac, Volume
1 of the Official History of Australia in the War of 1914–1918, CEW
Bean provides a thorough overview of 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
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.
In her book Guns and Brooches:
Australian Army Nursing from the Boer War to the Gulf War (Oxford
University Press, 1992), Jan Bassett 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
A general history
of the medical aspect of the campaign can be found in: M Tyquin, Gallipoli:
the Medical War: the Australian Army Medical Services in the Dardanelles
Campaign of 1915 (UNSW Press, Kensington, 1993).
Gallipoli—legend versus reality
The following articles are from Wartime, a journal
published by the Australian War Memorial:
- N Steel, ‘What if...? Imagine the Gallipoli landings on 25 April 1915 had succeeded—what then?’ (Wartime, 38, 2007, pp. 34–37)
- N Steel, ‘Heroic sacrifice’ (Wartime, 38, 2007, pp. 22–27)
- H Broadbent, ‘Gallipoli from the Turkish perspective’ (Wartime, 38, 2007, pp. 18–21)
- R Crawley, ‘Lone Pine: worth the cost?‘ (Wartime, 38, 2007, pp. 14–17)
- P Hart, ‘War is Helles: the real fight for Gallipoli’ (Wartime, 38, 2007, pp. 10–12)
- D Cameron, ‘Gallipoli: a Turkish view’—examines the first hours after the landings from the viewpoint of a company of 250 Turkish soldiers who opposed the Anzacs (Wartime, 42, 2008)
- H Broadbent, ‘Gallipoli’s first day: Turkish documents separating myth and reality’—looks at the first day of the campaign using material from Turkish archives (Wartime, 46, 2009, pp. 44–47)
- C Roberts, ‘Turkish machine-guns at the landing’—asks whether Australian troops landing at Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915 were subject to Turkish machine-gun fire (Wartime, 50, April 2010, pp. 14–19)
- P Pedersen, ‘Burning Bridges’—a profile of Major-General WT Bridges (Wartime, 50, April 2010, pp. 20–25)
- P Burness, ‘First man ashore’—while it is generally accepted that the 9th Battalion was the first ashore at Gallipoli, who was the first man to reach dry land? (Wartime, 50, April 2010, p. 30)
- R Van Dyk, ‘The evacuation of Anzac’—uses unit war diaries to describe the evacuation of Gallipoli (Wartime, 50, April 2010, pp. 32–36)
- G Gilbert, ‘Air war over the Dardanelles’—explores the contribution of air power to the Dardanelles campaign (Wartime, Summer 2013) and
- P Hart, ‘The day it all went wrong: the naval assault before the Gallipoli landings’—explores the failed attempt by ships from the British and French fleets to take the straits during March 1915 (Wartime, 62, Autumn 2013, pp. 8–13).
Other articles include the
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).
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 (The Age, 24 June 2001).
last Anzac: the fatal shore that defines a nation’, Tony Stephens discusses
where Gallipoli ranks in Australia’s historical picture (The 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 (The Sydney Morning Herald, 20
A Ekins, ‘Exploding
the myths of Gallipoli’, Bulletin with Newsweek, 27 April 2004, pp.
R Colon, Air
Effort over Gallipoli: a Brief Look at the Air Campaign over the Dardanelles,
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
(UNSW 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 the
J Grey, The War with the
Ottoman Empire, the Centenary History of Australia and the Great War Volume 2,
(Oxford University Press, 2015) contains two chapters covering Gallipoli and
sets them in the context of the campaigns in Egypt, the Sinai, Palestine and
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 on the Australian War Memorial’s
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, 25,
Gallipoli—geography, 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 and the Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards NSW (BOSTES) have developed the Gallipoli and the Anzacs website which includes information about the Anzac landing at Gallipoli, visiting Gallipoli today, and the Anzac Commemorative Site, which was built at Gallipoli with the cooperation of the New Zealand and Turkish governments.
- North Beach Gallipoli 1915 is a Department of Veterans’ Affairs publication which describes the Anzac Commemorative Site as it was in 1915.
- a map showing the landing beaches can be found on the Anzacs.org website.
- Anzac Battlefield: Gallipoli Landscape of War and Memory is an account of an extensive survey of the battlefields. It contains descriptions, maps, photographs and the history of the changes to the geography of Gallipoli after the First World War (Cambridge University Press, 2016).
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