REVIEW: THE DEFENCE OF THE DARDANELLES by Mark Barnes

Untitled.2jpgStanding out as one to watch for the bookies in the WHO What’s Not to Like championship stakes is this little gem from Michael Forrest. This is a history book which doubles as a battlefield guide and somewhere in the gaps it is also an artilleryman’s journal of sorts. I suppose you might call it a bit of a hoot. I’m not sure I’d describe it as runaway potboiler or very exciting, mind. It is very studious and sometimes appears a little dry, but never, ever arid. It runs along well and the knowledge and detail from someone who has been to all the spots is clear and present. You cannot help but like it. If you’re on the Gallipoli trail then I’d recommend you have a ‘looksee’. There is stuff in here to know. What I like most is the Turkish perspective and also the stuff about ships. It is all a bitdifferent from the traditional Dardanelles fayre, so it most definitely welcome. What you’re getting is a wholly different aspect of a very familiar story. I’m loving it.

The photography, both Mr Forrest’s and the archive material; is well presented and the guide aspect is top drawer. I cannot find anything wrong with this book. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable will. But, who cares about that? I’m comfortable with my level of ignorance. The really dramatic stuff covering the day the Allies attempted to force the Dardanelles with a fleet of Dreadnoughts is really well handled. As the leviathans begin to sink you can see where the whole sorry mess leading to those dreadful landings all slots into place and the tragedy of Gallipoli becomes clear. It happens in slo-mo for you as the Bouret slides under taking 600 men to their deaths. It ain’t pretty. It wasn’t going to get any more beautiful but there would be a great deal more colour. There are some wonderful tales in Mr Forrest’s account and you can’t blame the Turks for sexing a few of them up down the decades. They needed their heroes as much as anyone. Rest assured the Turkish and German gunners were heroes. They built statues and legends of some.

The story continues right up into the post war as the new Turkish republic struggles for life and territory. Some of it seems like farce. It isn’t.  I came away with continued pride and for the Royal Navy and with renewed  admiration for the Turks – it grown out of the Gallipoli story and I cannot wait until I get out there in September, 2014, to see that disputed soil for myself. In the meantime brilliant books like this will fill me with ideas and knowledge. If you are heading that way or dreaming of it; Michael Forrest will lend you a helping hand.

Mark Barnes

THE DEFENCE OF THE DARDANELLES
From Bombards to Battleships
By Michael Forrest
Published by Pen & Sword Maritime £25.00
ISBN: 978 1 78159 052 2