The Gallipoli Campaign - Introduction


IWM Q70561Strategically important, the Dardanelle Straits are a narrow stretch of water linking the Sea of Marmara to the Aegean while simultaneously separating the continents of Asia and Europe. In the First World War, gaining passage from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean and Asia via this route became increasingly important for the alliance with Russia. On 30 July 1914, two days after the First World War began in Europe, the Germans secured a secret alliance with the officially neutral Ottoman Empire (Turkey) against Russia. Although this did not commit the Ottomans to direct military action, failed diplomacy and Allied military actions led to them declaring for the Central Powers on 31 October 1914. Russia then declared war on Turkey on 2 November followed by Britain and France on 5 November 1914. The subsequent Allied campaign in the Dardanelles, in addition to attempting to force Turkey back to neutrality, became an attempt to encourage other neutral states in the region to join the Allies, namely Bulgaria, Greece, Italy and Romania.

Above - MAP OF THE GALLIPOLI CAMPAIGN 1915-1916, © IWM (Q 70561).

Below - MAP OF NAVAL ATTACK, 18 MARCH 1915, © IWM (Q 70562).

Map IWM Q70562Demolition parties began to arrive from February 1915, sending small bands of marines and sailors into Turkish areas to destroy their forts. The Turkish Army, though not expecting them, responded with great ferocity to these landing parties, and it soon became apparent that a stronger force was needed. A large scale Naval Attack, the brainchild of Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, was launched on 18 March 1915.

This too was an unmitigated disaster, falling prey to the heavy fortifications and myriad of howitzers firing from the Turkish vantage points high above the waterway. Not least of these fortifications were the dense minefields which took down three battleships, and caused severe damages to a further three. It was decided that only an infantry attack would bear any fruit, and the regular soldiers returning from garrison outposts around the world were to be the first to arrive along with the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC). The campaign was to be long, arduous and bloody, with three main phases.

IWM Q70563Phase One began on the 25 April 1915 with thousands of soldiers from the Australian, New Zealand and British armies landing on the northern shores of the Dardanelle Straits, an area known as the Gallipoli Peninsula. The 29th Division of the British forces (including the 1st Battalion The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers), landed on five beaches, only facing opposition on two of these. The objective was to overrun the Turkish batteries from the land, but the strength of the Turkish defences had been underestimated. Added to this the ANZAC landed twelve miles north of 29th Division, but on the wrong beach. This left them open to attack from the Turkish Forces who held the high ground, and hemmed them in. The French had a successful landing on the Asiatic shore. British leadership was uninspired in the face of the determined Turkish resistance. The situation, as on the Western Front, quickly fell to stalemate resulting in huge numbers of casualties on both sides from both battle wounds and disease.

ABOVE LEFT, Phase 1 Map showing Gallipoli landings from 25 April 1915, © IWM (Q 70563).
BELOW RIGHT, Phase 2 Map showing Suvla Bay landings from 6 August 1915, © IWM (Q 70564).

IWM Q70564Phase Two, beginning in August, was led by the ANZAC forces and saw reinforcements arrive including the 10th (Irish) Division. Poor leadership and communications again meant that the attack against the dogged defences of the Turkish army was a disaster.

Phase Three, in December 1915 and January 1916 was the well-executed evacuation of all allied troops from the peninsula. The Gallipoli peninsula became the final resting ground of over 47,000 Allied soldiers. In total almost 500,000 men were killed, wounded or missing in the Gallipoli Campaign – 213,000 from Britain and her Empire; 251,000 from Turkey.

The 1st Battalion The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers was involved in the initial landings at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 and throughout the hard-fought nine-month campaign, as part of 29th Division. The 10th (Irish) Division, which included the 5th & the 6th Battalion The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, the 5th & the 6th Battalion The Royal Irish Fusiliers, and the 6th Battalion The Royal Irish Rifles, landed at Suvla Bay and ANZAC Cove in August 1915 and was engaged there for two months before being redeployed to Salonika.

Other articles in this series:

The 1st Battalion The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers at Gallipoli

1st Battalion The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers - The Landing at X Beach

1st Battalion The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers at Helles

10th (Irish) Division, Chocolate Hill, Battle Honour SUVLA

6th Battalion The Royal Irish Rifles at Chunuk Bair

6th Battalion The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers at Kidney Hill

1st Battalion The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, Battle of Scimitar Hill

Evacuation of Gallipoli, Battle Honour GALLIPOLI 1915-16