The Gallipoli campaign, in which New Zealand made its first major effort during the First World War, had its origins in the stalemate which had developed on the Western Front by the end of 1914. Following the initial free-flowing operations, the opposing sides found themselves facing each other along a line of trenches which stretched from Switzerland to the Belgian coast. The power of the defence having already made its impact felt, statesmen in both camps were at a loss as to how to proceed. In these circumstances the need for an alternative approach was patent. On the Allied side the search for an alternative was encouraged by the opportunities presented by superior sea power. With the German High Seas Fleet contained in the North Sea, the possibility of launching amphibious attacks on the enemy was particularly evident to the British First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill.
Impatient to use British naval resources, he advanced a series of proposals, among them an assault on the Dardanelles-the nearly fifty-kilometre-long strait separating the Aegean Sea from the Sea of Marmara, which at its narrowest point, the Narrows, was less than two kilometres wide. The object would be to pass a force into the Sea of Marmara and threaten the capital of Germany's ally the Ottoman Empire. Constantinople, which guarded another narrow waterway, the Bosphorus, into the Black Sea, was very vulnerable to seaward attack. Such action had precedents: in 1807 a British squadron had forced the Narrows only to be becalmed and eventually forced to retreat before it could attack Constantinople. As recently as the Italo-Turkish War of 1911-12, an Italian force had attacked the Dardanelles and penetrated as far as the defences of the Narrows. Even before the Ottoman Empire entered the war on 31 October 1914, the possibility of a Greek&8212; Russian assault on the Dardanelles had been canvassed.
Once hostilities began, Churchill had wasted no time in ordering a bombardment of the forts guarding the Narrows. This operation, carried out before Great Britain formally declared war on the Ottoman Empire, merely reminded the Turks of the threat to the Dardanelles, and impelled them to improve the defences, especially by the laying of minefields. In London strategic issues were from November 1914 in the hands of the War Council, whose chief members were the Prime Minister, H. H.
Asquith, the Secretary of War, Lord Kitchener, and Churchill. The last-named urged an attack on Gallipoli at its first meeting on 25 November. This was rejected-pre-war studies had indicated that such an operation would be too risky-but the issue was soon brought back to the foreground by developments in the war. With the Turks advancing northwards in the Caucasus, Russia appealed for action to relieve the pressure.
The need was fleeting-Russian forces soon drove the Turks back-but impetus had been given to Churchill's concept of an attack on Turkey. The tempting idea of inducing the Balkan states to join the Allies and attack Austria-Hungary from the south-east, never more than an illusion, was also influential. A campaign in the Eastern Mediterranean might, moreover, encourage Italy to enter the war on the Allied side. These considerations were reinforced by the limited nature of the intended action. Despite the strong reservations of the commander of the Eastern Mediterranean Squadron (Vice-Admiral Sackville Carden), Churchill proposed a naval attack on the forts guarding the Narrows. His plan had the attraction of not requiring any substantial military forces for its implementation.
Nor would it entail any diminution in Britain's naval position in the vital North Sea, since only older battleships would be used. The War Council approved the proposal on 15 January 1915. The naval attack began on 19 February. Despite delays caused by bad weather, the outer defences, based on forts on both European and Asian coasts at the entrance to the strait, had been overcome within a week. Attention then switched to the intermediate defences, consisting of minefields guarded by batteries of mobile field guns and howitzers.
In London meanwhile the War Council had agreed to provide some military forces to support these operations: on 15 February it decided to send out the 29 th Division, the only regular division not committed to the British Expeditionary Force in France. Churchill also despatched the Royal Naval Division, a hotchpot ch of Royal Marine and other units raised from surplus sailors. Later, when the decision to send the 29 th Division was reversed (temporarily as it transpired), it was decided to deploy to Mudros on the Aegean island of Lemnos the Australian and New Zealand troops which had, since December, been training in Egypt; because of a lack of transport, only one Australian brigade was deployed for the time being. The French government, meanwhile, had also decided to deploy to Mudros a specially composed division.
All these troops were regarded as garrison forces which might occupy the forts (and later Constantinople) when the naval attacks had been successfully completed. A military assault on the Dardanelles was not envisaged. General Sir Ian Hamilton was appointed to command the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, as these disparate forces were designated. By the time that Hamilton arrived in the Eastern Mediterranean on 17 March, the slow progress of the naval operations had raised doubts about the likelihood of success by these means alone. A sustained attempt to subdue the forts and guns guarding the intermediate defences was made on 18 March, but this proved disastrous when six of the sixteen capital ships taking part struck mines, and three were lost. The minefields remained as a barrier to progress.
Within four days the commanders on the spot, Hamilton and Vice-Admiral John de Rob eck (who had replaced Carden on 16 March), had shifted the emphasis of the operations from a purely naval to a military orientation, a change in which London eventually acquiesced. An opposed landing was now proposed, with a view to capturing the Kilid Bahr plateau. From here the positions on both sides of the strait dominating the sea approaches could be neutralised, allowing the naval operation to proceed. The forces at Hamilton's disposal, about 75, 000 strong, were not in any state to carry out such a plan immediately, such an eventuality not having been foreseen. So that the necessary arrangements could be made, the French division, the Royal Naval Division, and the 29 th Division were all transported to Egypt, where all but one brigade of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, commanded by Lieutenant-General William Birdwood, were still located.
The ANZAC comprised the 1 st Australian Division (Major-General W. T. Bridges) and the composite New Zealand and Australian Division commanded by 1 NZEF commander Major-General Sir Alexander Godley, which included the New Zealand Infantry Brigade (Brigadier-General F. E. Johnston). Over the ensuing month Hamilton prepared his plan for the landing-not an easy task given the rugged nature of much of the peninsula's coastline.
He chose as his main focus the southern part of the Gallipoli peninsula at Cape Helles and Send el Bahr. While the 29 th Division landed there on five separate beaches, a subsidiary landing would be made by the ANZAC Corps about twenty kilometres up the coast, north of Gaba Tepe. The Australians and New Zealanders would seize the southern part of the Sari Bair ridge before advancing across the peninsula to Maidos, from where they would mount a threat to the Kilid Bahr plateau from the rear. The French division would meanwhile make a temporary landing on the Asian shore at Kum Kale to prevent Turkish gunners there bombarding the troops landing at Helles. To divert Turkish attention, the Royal Naval Division would make a feint attack at Bulair, at the narrow neck of the peninsula. This was a demanding task for a force which had evolved in an ad hoc fashion, was barely sufficient for its initially envisaged garrison role, and was not fully equipped, especially in ammunition.
There was much improvisation in the weeks preceding the implementation of the plan, and little time to practise the landings. But a certain complacency, based on a disparaging assessment of Turkish fighting qualities, and a lack of forcefulness on Hamilton's part hindered efforts to overcome the most serious deficiencies. The landings were originally scheduled to take place on 23 April, but weather conditions led to a delay of two days. The first ashore were to be the ANZACs, who had moved forward to Lemnos in early April.
The 3 rd Australian Brigade would land before dawn and advance to Gun Ridge. Following them, the 2 nd Australian Brigade would occupy the Sari Bair ridge as far as Hill 971. The 1 st Australian Division's remaining brigade would land by 9 a. m. as divisional reserve. With the covering force in place, the Australian and New Zealand Division would then land, and the drive across the peninsula would begin.
From Lemnos, the troops would be carried to the landing zone on warships (in the case of the 3 rd Brigade) or on merchant ships, loaded into ships' boats and towed inshore by steamboats, and eventually rowed to the beaches. They would come ashore on a 2700-metre front with their left south of Ari Burnu on what was later dubbed Brighton Beach. Even if all had gone to plan on the 25 th, the force would have struggled to secure its objectives, especially within the time allotted. But the plan was thrown into disarray even before the troops began landing.
The Australian spearhead was mistakenly directed about two kilometres north of the envisaged landing place, nearer to Ari Burnu at what was later named Anzac Cove and on a much narrower front than envisaged in the plan. The reasons for this have been hotly debated over the last eighty years, with tides, faulty navigation by the landing fleet, belated changes of orders all being canvassed. An unauthorised alteration of direction northwards by one of the midshipmen commanding a steamboat, which pulled the whole line of tows in this direction, is the most likely explanation. As a consequence the troops, on landing, found themselves confronted with far more formidable natural terrain immediately inland than they would have faced at the originally planned landing place. As they pushed inland through this difficult country of tangled ravines and spurs, the various units were split up and inextricably mixed. Only a few small, uncoordinated parties managed to reach the objective, Gun Ridge.
These problems were compounded by delays in landing the remainder of the 1 st Australian Division, the last of which reached shore four hours behind schedule. In the meantime, the first elements of the New Zealand and Australian Division had also begun landing soon after 9 a. m. , and they became intermixed with units of the Australian division.
These deployments were made more serious by the defenders' vigorous response. In the landing zone itself there had only been two Turkish infantry companies and an artillery battery. Although these units used their dominating position to inflict substantial casualties on the invaders, they were too few to prevent the Australians from landing and pushing inland. However, exercising near Hill 971 was the 19 th Division, based at Maidos and commanded by Mustafa Kemal Bey. Using his initiative Kemal rapidly deployed these forces to meet the threat posed by the ANZACs, units being thrown into battle as soon as they reached the position.
A counter-attack in mid morning drove the Australians back from the 400 Plateau. Kemal then turned his attention to the right of the ANZAC position, where New Zealand troops had joined the Australians in the front line. A fierce struggle ensued for the Baby 700 feature, but by evening the ANZACs had been forced back from it and the Nek. In this fighting about one in five of the 3000 New Zealanders who landed on the first day became casualties. The Turks had succeeded in securing the high ground. Far from rapidly gaining their initial objectives on Gun Ridge, the ANZACs found themselves in danger of being pushed back into the sea.
The situation at the main British landing site at Helles, where the landings had begun at dawn, was equally unpropitious. Tactical success was gained at two of the beaches, though unimaginative leadership ensured that it was not exploited. At the main landing points the 29 th Division suffered heavy losses in securing a precarious lodgement, a major achievement in itself. Many men were killed, especially at V Beach, where the improvised landing craft, the transport River Clyde, had been run ashore. The results fell far short of the first-day objectives. Not until the 26 th were the Turks finally driven back and the remainder of 29 th Division landed.
On this second day, the first units of the Royal Naval Division came ashore. This division had carried out the planned feint at Bulair on 25 April. In this operation, which had little effect on the enemy, Bernard Freiberg, a lieutenant-commander in the Hood Battalion, distinguished himself for the first time, by swimming ashore to light flares with a view to misleading the Turkish defenders. A French brigade also landed during the 26 th. The rest of the French division had landed at Kum Kale the previous day, but it was soon withdrawn and deployed at Helles as well.
When, however, the British and French troops sought to advance towards Achi Baba on 28 April, they were held and then driven back by a strong Turkish counter-attack. Meanwhile, at Anzac, the crisis had been surmounted. On the first night the situation had looked so dangerous that Birdwood had recommended evacuation, but this had been rejected by Hamilton, who was conscious that there was no means of carrying out such a plan. He could only urge the ANZACs to dig in.
As they did so the position was gradually made more secure. Gaps in the line were plugged by further units of the New Zealand and Australian Division as they came ashore. As soon as possible, the original landing units were pulled out of the line and reorganised. Eventually Birdwood was able to establish two divisional sectors: the New Zealand and Australian Division took responsibility for the line north of Courtney's Post, and the 1 st Australian Division south of it. These preparations were timely, for from the 27 th Kemal, having received reinforcements, began to intensify the pressure on the besieged ANZACs. The deployment in the enclave of four RND battalions at Anzac Cove bolstered the defences and allowed the reorganisation of the 1 st Australian Division.
It also raised the possibility of forcing back the besiegers. An attack aimed at seizing the Baby 700 feature was eventually mounted on the evening of 2 May by the New Zealand and Australian Division, with the RND battalions in support. But the plan was too ambitious. Poorly prepared and coordinated-the Otago Battalion in particular failed to make its start-line in time-the assault failed.
The main operational focus remained at Helles, where the British and French forces were soon reinforced. From Egypt came the 29 th Indian Brigade, followed by the 42 nd Division. Another French division also arrived. But these deployments were matched by the build-up of Turkish forces. After a major Turkish attack had been defeated on 1/2 May, the Allies prepared to launch a new drive on the village of Krithia on the rising heights of Achi Baba.
To further bolster the Allied strength, two ANZAC brigades, including the New Zealand Brigade, were taken out of the line at Anzac and redeployed to Helles, along with one New Zealand and four Australian field batteries which had not managed to get ashore at Anzac. The Allied plan, which was based on an unimaginative frontal assault in daylight, was put into effect on 6 May. The advancing troops were soon brought to a halt, an outcome that was repeated on the following day. Heavy losses were sustained without any indication that a breakthrough was possible. The New Zealand Brigade was detailed to take part in an attack on 8 May, wheeling on the stalled 29 th Division. The New Zealanders had little time to prepare, and their attack went in behind a weak artillery bombardment at 10.
30 a. m. The Wellington Battalion, on the left, got the furthest forward, advancing several hundred metres before being brought to a halt. Ordered to renew the attack at 5. 30 p. m.
, the New Zealand troops again suffered heavily as they struggled across the Daisy Patch. The Australian brigade, suddenly ordered to advance as well, could make no progress either. The three-day operation, later designated the Second Battle of Krithia, had cost the Allies 6500 men in gaining about half a kilometre of ground of no major significance. The New Zealand Brigade lost more than 800 men in this ill-conceived attack. As Hamilton was sent further reinforcements-the 52 nd Division arrived in early June-the Dardanelles Committee (as the War Council had been retitled following the reconstitution of Asquith's government) considered the options. Was the land operation, which was still far short of achieving its first-day objectives, to be continued or was it to be shut down and the troops withdrawn? Political considerations made the latter course unpalatable.
In the event, it was decided to persist, and to bolster Hamilton's force still further. Despite the outcome of the previous two attacks, Hamilton agreed to a further attempt being made at Helles. By now the situation was even less advantageous for the attacker, since an elaborate trench system would have to be overcome. By the use of heavy bombardment, a series of attacks in June and July made small gains, at the cost of 12, 000 British and French casualties. The Turks merely pulled back up the slope and prepared to meet the next onslaught.
The more the situation at Helles seemed permanently stalemated, the more attention focused on the position at Anzac. Early in May reinforcements had arrived in the form of the New Zealand Mounted Rifle Brigade (Brigadier-General A. H. Russell) and the 1 st Australian Light Horse Brigade, which had left their horses in Egypt. The RND battalions were withdrawn.
On 19 May the ANZACs, now relatively well organised, faced a fierce onslaught by more than 40, 000 Turks. In the New Zealand sector, the troops defending Russell's Top beat off repeated attacks from the Nek, while the Australians did the same further south. No man's land was left strewn with an estimated 10, 000 casualties, including 3000 dead. After this Turkish disaster (their worst of the campaign) and a brief truce which allowed some of the dead to be buried, the two sides were left in a state of deadlock in this area as well. They faced each other, sometimes only metres apart, in a state of increasing discomfort. Searing heat and the swarming flies (made worse by unburied corpses in no man's land) tormented the men, conditions exacerbated by water shortages.
Disease, especially dysentery, flourished in the insanitary conditions among men already debilitated by weeks of inadequate food. These physical problems were compounded by the psychological pressures stemming from the consciousness that no place in the tiny perimeter was safe from artillery fire. With the Turks overlooking them, snipers were an ever-present hazard. In the southern part of the front at Anzac, the trench system offered no more prospect of a breakthrough than at Helles. However, in the rugged terrain at the northern end of Anzac the front was less clearly defined. It was marked by a series of outposts.
The possibility of outflanking the Turks through this area was recognised at an early stage by Birdwood. While the futile attacks continued at Helles, Hamilton began preparing an offensive at Anzac, using further reinforcements which the Dardanelles Committee on 7 June had agreed to provide. These amounted to three additional divisions, to which Kitchener added two more late in the month, bringing the number deployed to a total of thirteen divisions. During July London's commitment to Gallipoli increased, as a consequence of the disasters which befell the Russians at the hands of the Austro-German offensive launched on 13 July. Hamilton's plan envisaged two columns advancing on to the Sari Bair Range, with a view to capturing the key high points of Chunuk Bair, Hill Q, and Hill 971 (Kola Che men Tepe) during the night of 6/7 August. A diversionary attack by the Australians would distract Turkish attention from the assault.
At dawn on the 7 th, an attack launched by the New Zealanders from Chunuk Bair in conjunction with an Australian attack from Russell's Top against the heavily fortified position at the Nek would complete the capture of the whole ridge as far as Hill 971. It was another complicated plan, requiring strict adherence to timetables to pull it off. With no room at Anzac for further troops, Hamilton determined to use his additional forces, grouped as IX Corps, by landing at Suvla Bay, to the north of Anzac, as well. This operation was initially conceived in terms of supporting the assault on the Sari Bair Range.
However. the intervention of the lack lustre and timid IX Corps commander, Lieutenant-General Sir Frederick Stopford (a long-retired officer who had been foisted on Hamilton by Kitchener because of his seniority), ensured that the establishment of a base became the primary objective, with support of the assault on the Sari Bair Range left dependent on the situation. The offensive opened on 6 August with diversionary attacks at both Helles and Anzac's Lone Pine. Predictably, the former was a costly failure. While savage fighting at Lone Pine (seven Australian VCs were won here) did induce the movement of Turkish reserves, this proved counterproductive, for the troops so moved were better placed to intervene on the Sari Bair Range when that position's importance became apparent.
As soon as night fell, two covering forces moved out to capture the foothills through which the assaulting columns would move to secure their objectives. On the right, the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade and Otago Mounted Rifles had secured their objectives by 1 a. m. The plan thereafter came unstuck. Proceeding up separate d eres (valleys), the two elements of the right assaulting column, which consisted of Johnston's New Zealand Infantry Brigade and an Indian mountain battery, were supposed to rendezvous on Rhododendron Spur before moving up on to the summit of Chunuk Bair. At dawn Johnston was still waiting at the Spur for part of his column to come up; when ordered to attack immediately he did so half-heartedly and was repulsed by the comparatively weak Turkish forces on the summit.
Meanwhile the left assaulting column, made up of British and Indian troops, had also failed to seize its objective after becoming lost in the rugged terrain in the darkness. Although the timetable had thus been completely thrown out, the planned dawn attack at the Nek went in even though there was to be no converging attack from Chunuk Bair. The 3 rd Australian Light Horse Brigade was in effect sacrificed by Birdwood in the forlorn hope that the attack might help the assaulting columns up on to their objectives by distracting the enemy. The overall plan had depended upon speed, to ensure that the troops on the summits could consolidate their positions before the Turks could deploy their reserves in response.
The delays had fatally compromised the whole offensive, though on the 8 th a glimmer of hope was provided when Johnston's column found Chunuk Bair unoccupied and the Wellington Battalion moved quickly on to the summit. But the position was enfiladed by Turks on other high points, and after dawn they prevented significant reinforcements getting up to join the Wellingtons. Not until after dark did the Otago Battalion and the Wellington Mounted Rifles join them. A further attempt to seize Hill Q was made on 9 August, but once again the whole enterprise was fatally compromised by a lack of coordination. Even so, a small force of Gurkha soldiers managed to reach the top of Hill Q, but were unable to consolidate their position before falling back after being hit by friendly naval gunfire. By this time the weight of Turkish pressure was beginning to make itself felt, as reinforcements arrived.
In desperate fighting, the New Zealanders on the summit of Chunuk Bair held off the Turks for two days. But on 10 August a massive Turkish counter-attack settled the issue. The British battalions which had relieved the New Zealanders on Chunuk Bair the previous night were swept away. The British forces on the approaches to Hill Q were also driven back.
The seizure of the summits of Chunuk Bair and Hill Q were impressive tactical achievements, and the Gurkha and New Zealand troops involved distinguished themselves by their steadfastness at a critical moment. But by the time the summits were gained, it was already too late: Turkish reserves 2 were converging on the area in numbers that spelt doom for the whole enterprise. There was no chance of the British getting sufficient forces up on to these positions (even if they had been immediately available), and supplying them, in time to consolidate the positions before the inevitable Turkish counter-attack. Even if the positions had been held, it is by no means certain that the Allies could then have pushed on towards the Narrows: the ANZACs themselves had proved that troops holding the high ground could face difficulties in dislodging determined defenders. In reality, the outcome of the offensive had been determined by the failure to secure the Sari Bair heights on the first night, but the performance of IX Corps underscored the failure.
Two divisions were ashore by midday on 7 August, but, despite limited resistance from Turkish forces in the vicinity, they failed to take decisive action to seize the commanding heights in the area. When they did finally move forward to do so, they were forestalled by hastily deployed Turkish reserves. To be sure, Stopford's orders had emphasised the establishment of a base, but his lack of drive was apparent and he was soon replaced. The conditions in which the British troops found themselves also played a part in the failure to seize the opportunity presented by the successful landing. Godley bemoaned the fact that all that had been gained at Suvla was 'five hundred acres of bad grazing land'. Fighting in the Anzac-Suvla perimeter continued throughout the rest of August, and the New Zealand and Australian Division suffered significant casualties in a series of attacks on features of doubtful tactical importance, especially at Hill 60.
In mid September the weary New Zealanders were withdrawn to Lemnos for rest and reorganisation. By the time they returned to Anzac in November, the future of the campaign had been determined. In London Hamilton's demands for more men in the aftermath of the failure of the August offensive had brought into question the utility of persisting at Gallipoli, especially in light of needs both on the Western Front and at Salonika. General Sir Charles Monro, who replaced Hamilton on 15 October, soon proposed evacuation.
Kitchener visited Gallipoli in November, and endorsed Monro's recommendation. After a storm ravaged the peninsula in late November and caused many deaths among the exposed troops on both sides, the authorities in London reluctantly agreed to evacuate Suvla and Anzac. In a well-planned operation which contrasted sharply with those mounted earlier in the campaign, the withdrawal was carried out successfully on 19 and 20 December. It was soon decided to evacuate Helles as well. This was completed on the night of 8/9 January, again almost without casualties. The Gallipoli campaign was a costly failure.
While it is possible to point to moments when tactical developments offered the promise of success, the outcome was determined by strategic factors. Essentially there were not enough men available at the crucial moments. Hamilton launched the campaign with five divisions against a roughly comparable Turkish force which enjoyed the advantage of operating on interior lines. The rough parity was sustained as the campaign progressed with the thirteen Allied divisions eventually facing fourteen Turkish divisions. The half-hearted approach in London, until July 1915, ensured that the Allied build-up was always too little too late. Inadequate leadership played a part in the Allied failure, and many men were sacrificed in futile attacks on strong positions, especially at Helles.
The campaign had no significant effect on the outcome of the war. This could only be resolved where the main enemies confronted each other-on the Western Front-and the prospect of a Balkan coalition forming to lead a mighty offensive from the south-east was illusory, if only because of the pitiful state of the Balkan armies. Moreover, there was no certainty that the Turks would necessarily have capitulated had their capital come under threat from Allied naval forces. In pursuit of this chimera, 120, 000 British and 27, 000 French troops became casualties. Of the 7500 New Zealand casualties, there were 2721 dead-one in four of those who landed. Australia's 26, 000 casualties included 8000 fatalities.
Nevertheless, the fighting at Gallipoli was always less murderous than on the Western Front, where most of the Australians and New Zealanders would shortly head. The campaign holds a special place in both Turkey and Australia and New Zealand. For the Turks, whose casualties probably numbered as many as 250, 000, including 87, 000 dead, it was the beginning of a process of national revival. The Turkish hero of Gallipoli, Kemal, would eventually, as Kemal Atat " uk, become the founding President of the Turkish Republic. In the South Pacific the campaign helped bolster a sense of national identity, albeit within a British framework, in both countries. At the time of the landing, New Zealanders at home had thrilled to learn that their men were taking part in the top league-a sense of exhilaration that was soon tempered by the arrival of long casualty lists.
There was pride that 1 NZEF had performed well in difficult conditions. The institution of Anzac Day, the day of the landing, ensured that the campaign would retain a special significance in both antipodean societies. The joint defence of the Anzac perimeter provided a strong sentimental underpinning to the relationship between Australia and New Zealand in the remainder of the century. 'Anzac' became the lasting label for trans-Tasman cooperation..