Next year will mark 100 years since British and Australian troops fought in the Battle of Gallipoli. The anniversary will be commemorated in Turkey, an event which is expected to be attended by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales.
The Battle of Gallipoli was a disastrous campaign fought by the Allied Powers during the First World War. The battle, also known as the Dardanelles Campaign, was carried out on the Gallipoli Peninsula in the Ottoman Empire, and lasted from the 25th of April, 1915, to the 9th of January, 1916.
Thought up by Winston Churchill, the First Lord of the Admiralty at the time, the plan involved creating a new front in the Ottoman region. This was expected to force the Germans to send a portion of their troops to assist the Turkish Army, thereby rendering the troops on the Western and Eastern fronts weaker and leaving the Allies with a smaller army to fight against.
While the head of the British Fleet anchored near the peninsula, Admiral Carden, thought that a gradual attack might be more successful, Churchill was insistent on a speedy course of action. Churchill’s conviction and enthusiasm was so great that the War Council approved of his plan, and the campaign was set to start in February 1915.
There was some confusion about the decision of the War Council. However, Churchill managed to have his plan carried out, believing that the Turks would be easily defeated without too much fighting, and Admiral Carden was given the instructions to prepare an assault.
On February 19th, an attack was launched on the Turkish troops. Although it was initially successful, an unanticipated resistance from the Turks, accompanied by such setbacks as heavily mined waters and old ships, caused the assault to come to a stop. Additionally, three battleships of the British Fleet had been sunk, and three more had been crippled, leaving the Navy helpless. It was at this point that the Army decided to intervene.
As the fleet of ships sailed to Alexandria to reorganise themselves, General Sir Ian Hamilton, the head of a force 70,000 men strong, began to prepare for attack by land. However, the War Council did not approve of this mission, as they thought it too much of a “gamble”, and no single person was put in charge. This was perhaps one of the causes of the failure of the battle.
On April 25th, the British troops landed in Gallipoli, along with ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) who landed at Anzac cove. They faced steeps cliffs in their attempt to leave the beach, rendering beaches overcrowded. When they finally got off the congested beaches, the fighting began. By May, the British had lost 20,000 men and the medical facilities were overflowing with casualties. Eventually, the remaining troops were evacuated, and the campaign ended.
Although the British troops were able to overcome a few areas of the Gallipoli Peninsula, the campaign was an overall disaster, causing the death of more than 20,000 men from both sides.
The fallen members of the British troops and ANZAC are remembered every year on the 25th of April, the day on which the troops first landed, and commemorative events for ANZAC Day are held at Anzac Cove in Gallipoli, the site of the landings. Hundreds of Australians make the journey to Turkey every year to honour their fallen.
This year’s ANZAC Day events are said to be only a dress rehearsal for the more important event to be held in 2015, which are set to be attended by the Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand, in addition to Prince Charles. Though Buckingham Palace has not yet received an invitation, it is the intention of the Australian government to invite a senior member of the Royal Family for the events.
According to Gallipoli services director, Tim Evans, Prince Charles, who has a strong connection with Australia and has visited more than ten times, “would be a very welcome nominee, but the decision is for the palace.”
William remarked in his speech at Parliament House in Canberra during last week’s Royal visit: “As those who were involved pass on, succeeding generations must remember and keep vivid the sacrifice they made. Catherine and I look forward to paying tribute to them at tomorrow’s ANZAC Day commemoration; and — with my brother Harry — to taking part in next year’s Gallipoli centenary.”