Gallipoli campaign

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HMS Cornwallis at Suvla Bay

The Gallipoli Campaign was a series of battles during World War I that revolved around control of the Dardanelles strait leading from the Mediterranean Sea to the Sea of Marmara. France and Great Britain, looking to find some way to win the war without incurring massive casualties on the Western Front, gambled that a naval attack on Constantinople could topple the Ottoman Empire and knock it out of the war, opening the Turkish straits and a year-round supply route to warm water ports in southern Russia, as well as ending the threat of Ottoman incursions in Iraq, the Caucasus, and the Suez Canal area.

Conceived by Winston Churchill, the Gallipoli campaign was an attempt to play to British advantages in technology and manufacturing. The Entente powers enjoyed vast naval superiority but they were unable to turn it into a war winner. Furthermore, some of the available ships were outdated and unsuitable for use against the Germans, but could still fight and were considered expendable. Steaming through the Dardanelles would be costly in terms of materiel, but sacrificing these obsolete ships was preferable and more humane than sending men to the Western Front. If successful, the campaign would have put Allied battleships within range of Constantinople. It would have cut the Ottomans off from their Asian territories and likely have forced them to seek peace terms.

The Allied fleet initially tried to run the gauntlet of Ottoman shore batteries and naval mines. They were almost successful, when several major ships were sunk by mines. The Ottoman shore batteries had almost run out of ammunition, but the Allies turned back, the commanders on the scene failing to complete the strategic objective.

This alerted the Ottomans to Allied intentions, so they were able to send reinforcements to the Gallipoli peninsula. The British changed from a naval to a land strategy, and sent an amphibious invasion force to clear out the Ottoman artillery. Along with the British, the ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand) troops participated. A French diversionary attack on the Asian side of the channel also landed.

The Allied forces achieved a degree of tactical surprise and could have taken the peninsula by advancing quickly and decisively up the mountains in the center. However, they clung to their beachheads and failed to advance inland. This allowed Mustafa Kemal (later Ataturk) to rally the panicked Ottomans. The fighting degenerated into trench warfare, with the Turks holding the high ground and balancing the Allied advantages in weaponry and artillery.

Additional Allied landings failed to change the situation, with sickness becoming prevalent and casualties mounting. Several months later the invasion was called off and the Allies evacuated.


  • Keegan, John. The First World War. 1998.
  • Moorehead, Alan. Gallipoli. 1956.