The Sites of Gallipoli Nearly 100 Years After the Battle
In November of 1914 the Ottoman Empire entered the First World War, joining the Central Powers of Germany and Austria-Hungary. Known as the Sick Man of Europe the Ottoman Empire, also known as Turkey, had seen a slow retreat from its once vast European territory and was reduced to a foothold that included the capital of Constantinople.
The Ottoman Empire had been defended by the French and British in the Crimean War of 1854 against the Russians, and even had the backing of the British during the disastrous Russo-Turkish War (1877-1878) in which Constantinople was almost lost to the Russians. By the end of the 19th century the political map had changed greatly, notably as France allied itself with Russia, which meant that the Turks were left without their long time support from France and Britain. The result was that the Turks sought out an ally, and found it with Germany.
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Hoping to regain some of the lost territory in Europe and moreover gain back Egypt and possibly Libya from the British and Italians respectively, the Ottomans entered the war on the German side. With a deadlock established on the Western Front in the fall of 1914, and Russia essentially isolated, the Allied forces looked for a way to knock Turkey out of the war.
This included an ambitious plan that first involved an Anglo-French naval task force, which included the new British battleship HMS Queen Elizabeth, sailing up the Dardenelles in an effort to bombard Constantinople. When several ships took damage and the French battleship Bouvet was sunk by a mine, the Allies called off the assault and instead decided to land forces at the Gallipoli peninsula and march overland to Constantinople.
The result was a disaster. The heat was oppressive in the summer, while conditions were atrocious. The British and French landed at the tip of Gallipoli at a point known as Cape Helles, while Australian and New Zealand Army Corp (ANZAC) landed several miles to the north at what is known as ANZAC cove. The ANZAC had been formed up in Egypt and were undergoing training to be moved to the Western Front, but the need for infantry at Gallipoli resulted in these forces being called up.
From late April of 1915 until the first weeks of January 1916 the Ottoman forces fended up repeated assaults by the Allies. At some points the trenches between the forces were mere yards apart. In the end some 22,000 Allied men were killed, while an unknown and most likely even greater number of Turks were killed. In the end Gallipoli would be a battle that forged two nations, Australia and Turkey.
Future leader of the Republic of Turkey Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was a young officer who rallied his troops and helped hold the line, while countless young Australians would never return home. Following the war Ataturk helped heal the wounds and today the two nations share a bond nearly 100 years after this terrible fruitless campaign.
Today the Gallipoli Peninsula still has many scars that serve as reminders of that campaign and these have helped further that bond between Aussie and Turk.