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The Great War
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Historians OverviewJay Winter

Gallipoli - An Intelligence Screw-up
Jay Winter
"The men who landed at Gallipoli were made up of Australians, New Zealanders, British soldiers, French support, and they were men whose original destination was the Western Front.

"They had set up camp in Egypt, and then, had been diverted from the war on the Western Front to this operation against Turkey (to knock Turkey out of the war). Their destination was something that most of these men had absolutely no idea about, and the conditions that they were going to face when they got ashore at dawn were also completely unknown to them.

"If there ever was an intelligence screw-up in the First World War, this was it. The men who were on the landing craft and who went ashore on the night of 24, 25 April, 1915, faced Turkish artillery that could command the beaches and the immediate outreach of the sea. They were therefore, under fire immediately, taking casualties immediately.

"And as soon as they hit the beach, they had nowhere to go.

"The idea that they would land and go straight up to the positions where the guns were, and then allow a force to basically occupy Gallipoli, was hopeless. And there was no cover for the men. There was no way of establishing a beachhead with any protection at all. The guns that were available through the navy were inadequate to still the artillery that was raining down on the allied forces.

"It was a kind of beachhead operation which was never intended to stop there. And as soon as the men realized that they couldn't get up the ravines, then they knew that they were in for a long, hard slog.

"And the shock of recognizing that this would not be an easy operation took very little time to settle in to the men who were on the beaches. It took a lot longer to settle in to their commanders who still believed that they could do it, and, basically, wasted 200,000 men trying to do the impossible."

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