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Foreign Affairs Defence and
This year is the 105th anniversary of the landings at
Gallipoli. This quick guide is an update of the Parliamentary Library’s 2017
quick guide on the same subject, with minor amendments to the text.
Why did the Anzacs land at
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 readily available.
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
Did they land on the wrong
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
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 Anzac Portal
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.
How 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
When did the Gallipoli campaign
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 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).
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.
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 (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
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’
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
General CBB White. The evacuation
of Anzac and Suvla began on 7 December and was completed by 20
How many Australians died at
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
British casualties were around 120,000. The French incurred
27,000 casualties and a Turkish figure, while uncertain, is thought to be over 220,000.
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 Anzac
- a brief
summary of the Gallipoli campaign from the 1990 media kit issued to assist
Australia’s 75th anniversary official commemorative visit
and the Anzacs (available on the Anzac Portal , 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
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 standstill.
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).
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.
- 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,
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 following:
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 April 2002).
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 war.
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 Syria.
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
Simpson Kirkpatrick (the ‘man with the donkey’).
Brief biographical details of Mustapha Kemal (later known as
Ataturk) are available on the Australian War
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,
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
Beach Gallipoli 1915 is a Department of Veterans’ Affairs publication which
describes the Anzac Commemorative Site as it was in 1915.
- 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).
For copyright reasons some linked items are only available to members of Parliament.
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