Veterans commemorate Anzac Day centenary of landings at Gallipoli

This week, veterans, families and officials around the world will commemorate the centenary of Anzac Day. The day remembers the first time Allied troops reached Gallipoli on Turkey’s southern coast during World War One.

Nowhere is the commemoration more poignant than in Turkey, Australia and New Zealand where the majority of troops were from.

The offensive made huge losses for the Allies, and resonates less with the British people, perhaps because less British soldiers were involved.

The campaign’s strategist was Winston Churchill who was First Lord of the Admiralty. He went on to learn from the campaign and lead the Allies to victory, but the operation remains to this day to be criticised with many saying it was ‘irresponsible’.

Churchill’s relationship with Ottoman leaders was not smooth. Prior to World War One, Churchill had met Enver Pasha, who was a major leader in the Turkish leadership. But Churchill commented that he thought Enver had similar characteristics to Napoleon.

He later met Talaat Bey Pasha, the Ottoman Grand Vizier and Mehmed Djavid Bey, the Ottoman Minister of Finance, and there was talk of them forming an alliance but it never came to fruition.

Then at the beginning of World War One, Churchill cancelled a deal with the Ottoman Empire in which Britain was contracted to build two war ships for Turkey. It is thought that the Ottoman leadership was humiliated and from then on the relationship took a turn for the worst, The Telegraph reports.

Churchill did reach out to the Turkish leaders to explain that the British Navy itself needed the ships to fight the Germans. He said that the ships would be forwarded to the Ottomans once the war with Germany had ended, plus monies to compensate the Turkish for their use.

Finally, Churchill believed that the British Navy could push through a narrow strait in the Aegean Sea and on to Constantinople to create an alternative front to Flanders. Churchill hoped that there would be enough British sympathisers within the Turkish leaderships to ensure it would side with the Allies.

Churchill was responsible for the naval aspect of the war, while Lord Kitchener and Ian Hamilton were responsible for the land campaign at Gallipoli. After the campaign Churchill left government to command a battalion on the frontline. It is thought the experience contributed to him being a better leader in the future.

Ian Harvey

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