Epic Battles

The Battle of Gallipoli

The Gallipoli Campaign, also known as the Dardanelles Campaign or the Battle of Gallipoli, took place at the peninsula of Gallipoli in the Ottoman Empire between 25 April 1915 and 9 January 1916, during the First World War. A joint British and French operation was mounted to capture the Ottoman capital of Constantinople and secure a sea route to Russia. The attempt failed, with heavy casualties on both sides.
The Gallipoli campaign resonated profoundly among all nations involved. In Turkey, the battle is perceived as a defining moment in the history of the Turkish people—a final surge in the defence of the motherland as the centuries-old Ottoman Empire was crumbling. The struggle laid the grounds for the Turkish War of Independence and the foundation of the Republic of Turkey eight years later under Mustafa Kemal Pasha (Atatürk - Wikipedia), himself a commander at Gallipoli.
By 1915 the Western Front was clearly deadlocked. Allied strategy was under scrutiny, with strong arguments mounted for an offensive through the Balkans or even a landing on Germany's Baltic coast, instead of more costly attacks in France and Belgium.
These ideas were initially sidelined, but in early 1915 the Russians found themselves threatened by the Turks in the Caucasus and appealed for some relief. The British decided to mount a naval expedition to bombard and take the Gallipoli Peninsula on the western shore of the Dardanelles, with Constantinople as its objective. By capturing Constantinople, the British hoped to link up with the Russians, knock Turkey out of the war and possibly persuade the Balkan states to join the Allies.

The naval attack began on 19 February.

World War I: Gallipoli Campaign 1/4

World War I: Gallipoli Campaign 2/4

World War I: Gallipoli Campaign 3/4

World War I: Gallipoli Campaign 4/4

The conditions at Gallipoli, on both sides, were notorious. In the summer, the heat was atrocious, and in conjunction with bad sanitation, led to so many flies that eating became extremely difficult. Corpses, left in the open, became bloated and stank. The precarious Allied bases were poorly situated and caused supply and shelter problems. A dysentery epidemic spread through the Allied trenches in both Anzac and Helles. Autumn and winter brought relief from the heat, but also led to gales, flooding and frostbite.

By the time the Gallipoli Campaign ended, over 120,000 men had died. More than 80,000 Turkish soldiers and 44,000 British and French soldiers, including over 8,500 Australians. Among the dead were 2,721 New Zealanders, about a quarter of those who had landed on the peninsula.

There were allegations that Allied forces had attacked or bombarded Ottoman hospitals and hospital ships on several occasions between the start of the campaign and September 1915. By July 1915, there were 25 Ottoman hospitals with a total of 10,700 beds, and three hospital ships in the area. The French Government disputed these complaints (made through the Red Cross during the war), and the British response was that if it happened then it was accidental. Russia in turn claimed that the Ottomans had attacked two of their hospital ships, Portugal and Vperiod, and the Ottoman Government responded that the vessels had been the victims of naval mines. No chemical weapons were used at Gallipoli.

In Turkey the battle, known after the port of Çanakkale where the Royal Navy was repulsed in March 1915, became part of the heroic story of the nation's revered founder, Mustafa Kemal."Çanakkale geçilmez" (Çanakkale is impassable) became a common phrase to express the nation's pride at stopping the massive assault. "Çanakkale içinde" is a famous and still very popular country song (tūrkū) commemorating the Turkish youth fallen there. The victory at Çanakkale did more than any other event or person in creating Turkish nationalism.

Memorial of Anzac Cove, commemorating the loss of thousands of Ottoman and Anzac soldiers in Gallipoli. Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives... you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours... You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well. 
— Atatürk 1934

War does not determine who is right - only who is left.  ~Bertrand Russell