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100 Years On – Gallipoli

When there is no good way through, when going straight forward gets you nowhere, you try to find a way around.  That’s exactly what the Allied powers tried to do in 1915.  In an effort to find a way around the stalemate of the Western Front, the Allied governments tried to force the Bosphorus Straits with a naval fleet in February 1915, but that effort was fruitless.  A plan for a land invasion of the Gallipoli peninsula was hatched.

Hopes to surprise and overwhelm the Ottoman Turks were dashed after initial, but bloody, success on the beaches.  Troops from across the world, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India, Great Britain, and France, were able to get onto the beaches, but their efforts to punch further inland were stymied by a well-led, motivated Ottoman defense.  Their effort quickly bogged down into the exact type of warfare that the planners wished to escape.

When the last Allied soldier left the beaches in January, 1916, each side had lost almost a quarter of a million men dead, wounded, or captured/missing.  The straits were still closed to Allied shipping, Turkey was still in the war, and the grinding down of human capital in the trenches, mountains, and swamps of the war continued for almost three more years.

While it is humbling to think of the men on those beaches, both invading and defending, it is even more so to think of their continued ability to fight on, to keep going, that strikes me the most.  It is men like these that I point at and say to my sons, “Be that.  Just be like that.”

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  1. It did form a union that has endured to this day between the Aussies and the New Zealanders… They lost their best and brightest in that stalemate.

  2. There is one school of thought among historians that holds that if the attack had taken place more or less when Winston Churchill proposed it, instead of six months later, it would have encountered far less resistance.

    Of course when you get right down to it, NOBODY’S high command came out of that war looking good.

    • Pretty much.

      On a related note, I’ve always wondered why a similar maneuver was never attempted on the Belgian coast. I’m sure there was a good reason, I just can’t find a historian talking about it.

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