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The Great War
Prologue Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Timeline Maps & Battles The Shaping of the 21st Century Historians
Historians OverviewTrevor Wilson

Gallipoli - An Australian Perspective
Trevor Wilson
"The Gallipoli Campaign can be viewed from very different perspectives… on a broad view, it had almost no chance of success.

"It required an amphibious invasion, which to succeed needs long preparation and great resources – neither of which the British had at their disposal. And the defender possessed on this occasion, even greater advantages than were usual. The Gallipoli peninsular, with its narrow beaches and sheer cliffs and commanding ridges and high peaks, happens to be a defender's dream.

"The only chance of the British attack succeeding was if the Turks could be taken by surprise or were already highly demoralized. Neither was the case. An invading force could not be assembled in the Eastern Mediterranean without its object being painfully clear. And although Turkish forces sometimes fought badly in the far-flung parts of their empire, they would ferociously defend their homeland and their capital, Constantinople.

"If we narrow the focus to what was happening on the ground – that is, among the fighting men – it seems a different story of courage and endurance and even purpose. Let it be said, the Gallipoli operation was not a comfortable experience.

"The climate of what the British Prime Minister thought was the 'gorgeous East' … was often very inhospitable.

Gallipoli trench system
Gallipoli trench system, contemporary
"It proved insufferable hot in summer – a soldier opening a tin of jam would find it smothered in blowflies before he could get a spoon of it to his mouth, and large numbers of men fell victim to dysentery – and freezing in winter. And the distances between the opposing trenches were so limited that it was perilous to risk even a swift look over the parapet.

"Yet soldiers proved adaptable to this situation, and resourceful. Australian and New Zealand troops (ANZACS) converted empty jam tins into home-made bombs, and created periscope rifles so as to get a sight on the enemy without exposing themselves. The determined fighting in a succession of gripping but ill-rewarded offensives won great attention, not only at home in Australia and New Zealand, but in the newspapers of Britain and elsewhere.

"So although the Gallipoli Campaign may be judged a doomed undertaking from the start, nevertheless, the positive qualities revealed by the forces engaged in it have caused it to be remembered as heroic. For example, in Australia and New Zealand, Anzac Day – 25 April, the day of the first landings – is a national holiday and the principal occasion for remembrance of war and its sacrifices."

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