This week, a series of ceremonies and events begins to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings during World War I, or the Great War. For Australians and New Zealanders, the landings of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) were the beginning of the tradition of the two nations fighting together, one that would stretch through World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, and forward to today in Timor Leste and Afghanistan.
Ironically, the evacuation was a complete success, a case of textbook planning and execution to end a campaign that had been ill conceived and poorly planned from the outset.
That Anzac tradition of Aussies and Kiwis having many more commonalities than differences may be the most important thing that resulted from the shared adversity and carnage of the Gallipoli battlefields. It was, first and foremost, Australia and New Zealand’s entrance into World War I, when both countries had only gained their autonomy eight years earlier. The experience the Anzacs gained at Gallipoli, won at such terrible cost, would stand them in good stead on the Western Front and beyond. Their fighting reputation, also first earned at Gallipoli, continued through every conflict in which they were a part, and follows them today. On a more somber note, the casualties at Gallipoli, the evacuation of the peninsula, and the questions that came afterward, determined in some part Australia and New Zealand’s desire to exercise more control of their own armed forces, which bore fruit during World War II.
The campaign itself, however, was a disaster. Gen. Charles Munro, sent to the peninsula to report on the military dispositions and situation and advise on whether the force should be evacuated, said, “The force, in short, held a line possessing every possible military defect. The position was without depth, the communications were insecure and dependent on the weather. No means existed for the concealment and deployment of fresh troops destined for the offensive – whilst the Turks enjoyed full powers of observation, abundant artillery positions, and they had been given the time to supplement the natural advantages which the position presented by all the devices at the disposal of the field engineer….In my opinion the evacuation of the peninsula should be taken in hand.” Gen. Sir Ian Hamilton, who had been replaced by Munro in October, had declared an evacuation would result in 50 percent casualties. Ironically, the evacuation was a complete success, a case of textbook planning and execution to end a campaign that had been ill conceived and poorly planned from the outset. The Turkish defenders were almost completely hoodwinked by the deception that the attackers were still present in force when in fact they were being evacuated every night. On the final night 10,000 men were evacuated, with only two wounded during the entire operation.
Of the 410,000 Allied troops that went ashore beginning on April 25, 1915, 141,587 became casualties. 28,000 of them were Australian, 7,991 New Zealanders. The British and Commonwealth total was 114,547 casualties, and the French suffered 27,000 total casualties.
Faircount Media Group’s publication Gallipoli 100: Lest We Forget, will premiere at the inaugural event of many commemorative events planned to take place, and is planned to both commemorate the sacrifice of those who fought at Gallipoli, and to educate the reader about what happened during the campaign itself.