Turkey marks the 101st anniversary of the WWI Battle of Gallipoli

The 101st anniversary of the Gallipoli naval battle of WWI has been marked by commemoration events in Turkey. The Turkish military and the country’s senior leaders attended the events at the memorial grounds where the 1915 battle took place.

The Gallipoli naval and land battle of WWI was responsible for ending the Allied invasion of the Ottoman Empire. It meant that the Ottoman Empire was to stay in the war, fighting as part of the Central Powers.  The hero of Gallipoli  was headed by the later founder of the Republic of Turkey , Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

In 1915, Germany and Austria-Hungary were allied with the Ottoman Empire when Allied forces who were looking to control the Dardanelles, which was the gateway to Istanbul, launched their initial attack. The British and French navies attacked the strait beginning in February, with the primary attack starting on March 18.

The Allied troops launched a further campaign following their battleships assault, which failed to seize the strait. They landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula in April. This campaign was also deemed a failure and induced mass casualties on both sides. It is believed that it was the Ottoman forces who sustained the heaviest blow to its troops, with 65,000 casualties to the Allies’ 46,000, but the true number of casualties remains unconfirmed. Gallipoli holds a special place in Australian and New Zealand history, because of the heavy casualties sustained by these nations.

The Battle of Gallipoli is considered the last major victory for the Ottoman army. The once region-wide expanse of the Ottoman Empire was rapidly falling apart and during that period of WWI had already been reduced to the current borders of modern-day Turkey.

However, this victory over the Allies, even if it didn’t stop the eventual invasion of the country, was enough to bolster the empire’s morale and inspired the War of Independence, which took place four years after the Battle of Gallipoli. The Turkish public took up arms to drive out the advancing Greek forces, and Turkey eventually regained its independence following the 1921 and 1923 Greek withdrawals.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan attended the commemoration ceremonies, in which wreaths were laid at the Monument of Martyrs and members of the public paid their respects at the graves of the Ottoman Empire soldiers who died there. The Turkish military paraded troops and naval vessels, and the army’s aerobatics team, the Turkish Stars, also performed on the occasion, which is officially known as the Day of Martyrs and Çanakkale Sea Victory.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE