This Day In History: The Allies Order the Evacuation of Gallipoli (1915)

Advertisement

On this day in 1915, the Allies begin their evacuation from Gallipoli. This was to mark the effective end of the Allied invasion of the Ottoman Empire. The invasion is widely seen as a costly failure and it arguably only strengthened the Turkish commitment to their alliance with the Central Powers. It is believed that both sides suffered approximately 500,000 casualties.

In 1915 the Allies, especially Britain wanted to help Russia. The Turks were placing a great deal of pressure on Russia on the Caucasus front. It was hoped that if the Allies seized the Dardanelles Straits near the Ottoman Capital of Istanbul, that this would force the Turks out of the war. The First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill was the architect of the invasion. In February 1915, the French and British navies bombarded the Dardanelles. The Turks were able to beat back this naval attack by mining the waters in the Dardanelles. After the failure of the naval attack the Allies began to plan for a full-scale amphibious invasion. This it was hoped would allow the Allies to seize control of the Dardanelles.

Gallipoli
Allied troops landing on Gallipoli

From April 1915 the British, Australian and New Zealand forces began to land on the Gallipoli Peninsula. The Turks were ready for them and they inflicted heavy casualties on the Allies. The Turkish defenders were commanded by Mustafa Kemal, the future President of Turkey. The British also landed at another point and they also suffered very high casualties. For the next three months, the Allies struggled to break out of their beachheads.  They launched massive attacks on the Turkish lines but they were nearly always defeated. The British ordered a new landing on Sulva Bay and this caught the Turks unawares. However, the British did not act quickly enough and they waited too long to move inland. The Ottoman army moved onto heights overlooking Sulva Bay and the British only advanced a few miles. After Sulva Bay, both sides resorted to trench warfare and a bloody stalemate ensued for several months. The Australians and the New Zealanders made many brave attempts to break out and drive inland. However, the Turks fought bravely for their homeland and they received aid from the German Imperial Army.

By December the British and the French realized that the Gallipoli landings had failed in their objectives. The British commander Hamilton ordered the evacuation of Gallipoli.  By January 1916 the last of the units were evacuated by sea. Winston Churchill was widely blamed for the failure of the Gallipoli landings and he resigned from the War Cabinet. He later served on the western front where he commanded a battalion.

Advertisement