Gallipoli Campaigns

 

(NOTE: The following text was mainly borrowed from Lord Kinross’ book “Ataturk The Birth of A Nation” Since book is under Copyright  the text intentionally omits  many parts of Lord Kinross’ writings on this subject andf the text is only for reference purposes. Lord Kinross’ complete writings may be found here)  

MUSTAFA KEMAL IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR

Mustafa Kemal had opposed the war. But  that it was a fait accompli he threw himself into it with energy and in a patriotic spirit. The Germans were his natural enemies. But now that they had become his military Allies he was ready to make common cause with them so far as his patience allowed. His first task, here in Sofia, was to help bring pressure on the Bulgarians to enter the war. Aiding Fethi he worked to this end through all available channels, countering in the process a barrage of propaganda from the side of the Russians.

Another task of Kemal’s was to obtain arms and supplies from the Bulgarians for the support of the Turkish armies. He secured a promise of a large load of flour against cash payment, and sent Shakir Zumre to Constantinople to arrange the deal. He saw Talat, now Minister of Finance. But Talat passed him over to Javid who, though he had resigned from the post, still worked behind the scenes, giving influential advice on financial policy. Javid refused to recommend the payment. There was, he said, no money available for such a purpose. ‘You seem to think,’ he added, ‘that this war is going on for years.’

As the war proceeded Kemal began to fret with impatience. He was now a lieutenant-colonel, and thus entitled to a divisional command. He wrote to Enver, asking for a post in accord with his rank. But Enver replied, ‘There will always be a post for you in the army, but as your retention at Sofia, as military attaché, seems especially indicated, we are leaving you there.’ To this Kemal retorted that a more sacred duty called him to the front, and added, ‘If you consider me unworthy to become an officer of the first rank, please tell me so openly.’ To this Enver did not reply.

Kemal was indeed sounded by an emissary from Constantinople about a project of Enver to send a force of three regiments through Persia into India, with the object of stirring up a Moslem revolt against the British. Would he accept the command of such a force?

Kemal recognized the proposal as one of Enver’s more fanciful dreams, a disquieting sign as to how his mind, at the outset of a war, was working. He treated it with cynicism, replying, ‘I am not such a hero.’ For such an operation, he added, three regiments would be superfluous. Only a single officer was needed, who would raise his troops on the way. The thing, of course, was impossible. ‘Had it been possible,’ he drily remarked afterwards, ‘I shouldn’t have waited for orders. I should have gone by myself and found my troops. I should have conquered India and become an Emperor.’ Instead, he replied that he intended to fight at the front in his own country.

The first few months of the war had proved disastrous for Turkey. Had her leaders been wise they would have devoted this period to a defensive strategy, conserving and building up such military strength as she had, completing the training of her forces and disposing them with forethought, waiting to see from which quarter the Allied threat would come.

It was only after Enver had left on this catastrophic excursion that Kemal was given a command. This appointed him commander of the Nineteenth Division and instructed him to report at once to Constantinople.

Reporting at GHQ he was shown in to Enver, who had just returned from the east. He looked thin and pale.

‘You are a little tired,’ Kemal said to him.

‘Not particularly.’

‘What happened?’

‘We were beaten. That’s all.’

‘And the general situation, how is it?’

‘Very good,’ replied Enver.

(NOTE: The following text was mainly borrowed from David Fromkin’s book “A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East”. Since the book is under copyright the text intentionally omits many parts of David Fromkin’s writings on this subject. David Fromkin’s complete writings may be found in the book here)

AT THE NARROWS OF FORTUNE

London was dealing quickly with the political consequences of the impending victory at the Dardanelles but, at the scene of battle, the fleet moved slowly. The weather kept the warships from bringing their full fire power to bear. As the days went by, the Turkish troops along the shore began to regain their confidence, and learned to harass the British minesweepers by firing on them with howitzers and small mobile guns.

On 13 March Churchill received a cable from Carden saying that minesweeping was not proceeding satisfactorily due to what Carden claimed was heavy Turkish fire, although no British casualties had been suffered. This, noted Churchill, “makes me squirm”; “I do not understand why minesweeping should be interfered with by fire which causes no casualties. Two or three hundred casualties would be a small price to pay for sweeping up as far as the Narrows.”

Part of the problem—and it was one of the defects in Admiral Carden’s original plan—was that the minesweepers were manned by civilian employees, who were not willing to operate under fire; but the major problem was that Admiral Carden was losing his nerve.

Churchill had cabled him on 13 March reporting that “we have information that the Turkish Forts are short of ammunition and that the German officers have made desponding reports,” to which Carden replied that he would launch the main attack into the straits and wage the battle for the crucial Narrows on or about 17 March, depending on the weather; but the admiral worried, and could neither eat nor sleep. He had lost no ships and reported that he had suffered no casualties, but the strain of anxiety proved too much for him and suddenly his nerves broke.

On the eve of the main battle for the straits, Admiral Carden told his seconds-in-command that he could no longer go on. He summoned a fleet physician, who examined him and certified that he was suffering from indigestion and that he should be placed on the sick list for three or four weeks. On 16 March Carden cabled Churchill “Much regret obliged to go on the sick list. Decision of Medical Officer follows.”

Churchill promptly appointed John de Robeck, the second-in- command, to take his place. De Robeck, according to his cabled report to the Admiralty, then commenced the main attack at 10:45 on the morning of 18 March.

The day began to go badly when a French battleship mysteriously exploded and disappeared just before 2:00 in the afternoon. Two hours later two British battleships struck mines. A vessel sent to rescue one of them, the Irresistible, also struck a mine; and it and the Irresistible both sank. Then a French warship damaged by gunfire was beached. Dc Robeck reported to the Admiralty, however, that the rest of his ships would be ready to recommence action in three or four days. At the Admiralty in London, there was elation, for Naval Intelligence had discovered that when the action recommended, the enemy would collapse.

On the afternoon of 19 March, Captain William Reginald Halt, the Director of Naval Intelligence, brought Churchill and Fisher an intercepted, decoded message from the German Kaiser; they grasped its significance immediately. Churchill cried out in excitement that “they’ve come to the end of their ammunition,” as indeed they had. Fisher waved the message over his head and shouted, “By God, I’ll go through tomorrow” and then repeated “Tomorrow! We shall probably lose six ships, but I’m going through.” Churchill and Fisher did not tell the Cabinet, for fear of compromising their intelligence sources, nor did they tell de Robeck; they merely cabled him that it was important not to give the impression that operations were suspended.

Unknown to Churchill and Fisher, at Maurice Hankey’s suggestion, the Director of Naval Intelligence, Captain Hall, had initiated negotiations with Talaat Bey, the Young Turk leader, aimed at inducing the Ottoman Empire to leave the war in return for a large payment of money. The British and Ottoman negotiators met at a seaport in European Turkey on 15 March.

The negotiations failed because the British government felt unable to give assurances that the Ottoman Empire could retain Constantinople—so deep were the British now committed to satisfying Russia’s ambitions.

Captain Hall had not yet learned of the collapse of the negotiations when, on the night of 19 March, he told Churchill of the plan to offer four million pounds to Turkey if she would leave the war. Churchill was aghast and Fisher was furious. At their insistence, Hall cabled his emissaries to withdraw the offer. Hall later recalled that Fisher started up from his chair and shouted “Four million? No, no. I tell you I’m going through tomorrow.’’

All that stood between the British-led Allied fleet and Constantinople were a few submerged mines, and Ottoman supplies of these were so depleted that the Turks were driven to catch and re-use the mines that the Russians were using against them.

Morale in Constantinople disintegrated. Amidst rumors and panic, the evacuation of the city commenced. The state archives and the gold reserves of the banks were sent to safety. Special trains were prepared for the Sultan and for the foreign diplomatic colony. The well-to-do sent wives and families ahead to the interior of the country.

Talaat, the Minister of the Interior, requisitioned a powerful Mercedes for his personal use, and equipped it with extra petrol tanks for the long drive to a distant place of refuge. Placards denouncing the government began to appear in the streets of the city. The Greek and Armenian communities were expected by the authorities to welcome the Allies, but now the police began to arrest suspects within the Turkish-speaking community as well.

Meanwhile those members of the Enver-Talaat faction who had supported it to the bitter end gathered up petrol and prepared to burn down the city when the Allies arrived, and wired St Sophia and the other great monuments with dynamite. The Goeben made ready to escape into the Black Sea.

Enver bravely planned to remain and defend the city, but his military dispositions were so incompetent that—as  Liman von Sanders later recalled—any Turkish attempt at opposing an Allied landing in Constantinople had been rendered impossible.

London rejoiced and Constantinople despaired, but in the straits of the Dardanelles, the mood of the British command was bleak. The casualties and losses from mines on 18 March had left Admiral de Robeck despondent. He feared for his career. According to one report, when evening came on the 18th and de Robeck surveyed the results of the day’s battle, he said “I suppose I am done for.”

D e Robeck was unnerved because he did not know what had caused his losses. In fact his ships had run into a single line of mines running parallel to the shore rather than across the straits. They had been placed there the night before and had escaped notice by British aerial observers. It was a one-time fluke.

Fate now appeared in the charming person of General Sir Ian Hamilton, whom Kitchener had sent out in advance of the forth coming troops.  Hamilton was to be their commander, with orders to let the navy win the campaign and then to disembark and take possession if the shore. If the navy failed to win through on its own, Hamilton’s alternative orders were to invade the European shore of the straits, capture the Narrows, and let the navy through.

Once Admiral de Robeck realized that he had an alternative to going hack into battle—that in London it was regarded as acceptable for him to turn over the responsibility to Hamilton and the army if he chose to do so-—he saw no reason to run further risks. Whoever said it first, (d Robeck and Hamilton agreed that the navy should wait until the army could come into action. Hamilton had already cabled his views to Kitchener, who on 18 March showed the cable to the Prime Minister; the cable persuaded Asquith that “The Admiralty have been over-sanguine as to what they c do by ships alone.” De Robeck cabled Churchill, after meeting with Ian Hamilton on 22 March, that “having met General Hamilton, and heard his proposals I now consider” that the army has to enter the campaign

On the morning of 23 March the War Group met at the Admiralty to discuss de Robeek’s decision. Winston Churchill was appalled and shocked, but the First Sea Lord, Admiral Fisher, took the view that the decision of the man on the spot had to be accepted, like it or not, and in this view he was supported by Admiral of the Fleet Sir Arthur Wilson and Admiral Sir Henry Jackson. Churchill violently dis agreed, and took the matter to the Cabinet when the War Group meeting ended, He had dralted a strong cable to de Robeck which lie brought along for the Cabinet’s approval, and which in no uncertain terms ordered the admiral to renew the attack. At the Cabinet meeting Churchill received support from both the Prime Minister and from Kitehener, who drafted appropriately strong cables to Sir Ian Hamilton.

Returning to the Admiralty that afternoon, Churchill found that Fisher, Wilson, and Jakson remained adamantly opposed to his sending the cabled order to de Robeck. As a civilian minister attempting to overrule the First Sea Lord and his fellow admirals on a naval matter, Churchill felt obliged to return to Asquith and ask for the Prime Minister’s consent. Asquith, however, refused to give it. His personal view was that the attack should be resumed, l)Ut he would not order it over the opposition of the Sea Lords at the Admiralty.

Knowing as he did that the ammunition crisis in Turkey meant that the road to Constantinople was open, Churchill fought back against the decision to let the navy abandon the campaign. Since he could not give de Roheck orders to resume the attack, he attempted to get him to do it through persuasion, lie sent cables in which he attempted to reason with the admiral and to show him why a resumption of the naval attack was important. He spoke again with the prime Minister who expressed his “hope” that the attack would resume Soon. It was to no avail. Only a few hundred casualties had been suffered, but the Admiralty’s Dardanelles campaign was over.

After the battle of 18 March—the battle that so alarmed de Robeck that he decided to turn his ships around and steam away—the Ottoman commanders concluded that their cause was lost. While Admiral de Robeck, aboard ship, was giving his orders to give up the fight, on shore the Turkish defending forces, unaware of de Robeck’s decision, received orders to fire their remaining rounds of ammunition and then to abandon their coastal positions.

If Admiral de Robeck, who had led his fleet in battle for only one day, had plunged back into battle for a second day he would have seen the enemy forces withdraw and melt away. In a few hours his minesweepers, working without interruption or opposition, could have cleared a path through the Narrows; and once the lines of mines surrounding the Narrows had gone, there were no more laid. The fleet would have streamed into Constantinople without opposition.

For Winston Churchill, who was only hours away from victory, the nearness of it—the knowledge that he was almost there, that it was within his grasp—was to become the torment of a lifetime. It was more than a personal triumph that had slipped through his fingers. It was also his last chance to save the world in which he had grown up: to win the war while the familiar, traditional Europe of established monarchies and empires still survived.

It was also the lost last chance for Britain, France, and Russia to impose their designs on the Middle East with ease. Though they would continue to pursue their nineteenth-century goals in the region, thereafter they would do so in the uncongenial environment of the twentieth century.

The Ottoman Empire, which had been sentenced to death, had received an unexpected last-minute reprieve. Its leaders rushed to make use of the time that Britain had allowed them before the new trial of arms began.

THE WARRIORS

Shaken by the Allied bombardment of 18 March, Enver  Pasha announced an uncharacteristic  and important decision:  He relinquished command of the Ottoman forces at the Dardanelles to the German general, Liman von Sanders. It ran counter to all of Enver’s instincts to turn over his Moslem warriors to a foreign-and Christian – commander Until that moment he had resisted pressures to turn over authority, even to the German experts who served as depart mental and staff advisers. Although he had allowed German officers in his War Ministry to move into key posts in the Departments of Operations, Intelligence, Railroads, Supply, Munitions, Coal, and Fortresses, he had jealously questioned the judgments and circumscribed the authority of his German colleagues; and in many areas he continued to do so. Yet under the guns of the Allied armada he finally stepped aside on the battlefield that most mattered.

 

(NOTE: The following text was mainly borrowed from Lord Kinross’ book “Ataturk The Birth of A Nation” Since book is under Copyright  the text intentionally omits  many parts of Lord Kinross’ writings on this subject and the text is only for reference purposes. Lord Kinross’ complete writings may be found here)  

 

MUSTAFA KEMAL’ S ASSIGNMENT  TO GALIIPOLI

Not wishing to press him further, Kemal raised the question of his posting. ‘I must thank you for being good enough to appoint me to the command of the division which bears the number nineteen. Where is this division — in what army or army corps?’

Enver replied vaguely, ‘Oh yes. Perhaps you will be able to get more precise information from the General Staff.’

Kemal then toured the various offices of the General Staff, in search of his division — but in vain. Finally someone advised him to try the army of I ,iman von Sanders, whose offices were in the Ministry of War. He was shown into the office of his chief of staff, who answered him, ‘We have no such division in our formation. But it is quite possible that the Third Army Corps, which is stationed at Gallipoli, may be planning to form the unit you mention. If you would care to give yourself the trouble of going there you will certainly be able to obtain all the necessary information.’

Before he went he was shown in to General von Sanders. He had not met General von Sanders before, but they were already known to one another through his outspoken anti-German sentiments. The German general received him with affable courtesy, asked him when he had returned from Sofia, and enquired, ‘Are the Bulgarians going to make up their minds to come into the war?’

Kemal replied that in his opinion they would not do so yet. They were waiting for one of two things to happen: either a striking German success, or the extension of the war to their own territory. This remark provoked an irritable gesture from von Sanders, who remarked with a sneer, ‘Then the Bulgarians don’t believe in the success of the German army?’

Kemal answered calmly, ‘No.’

Von Sanders then asked him suspiciously, ‘And what is your opinion?’

Kemal hesitated. As a mere commander of a division which did not yet exist how could he express an opinion? On the other hand he had for long been committing his views to paper and could hardly retract them now. Besides, for all that he might have said in public, he could not help privately sympathizing with the circumspect policy of the Bulgarians. He decided to be frank, and said briefly, ‘I think the Bulgarians are right.’

Liman von Sanders rose without a word and Kemal took his leave. He left for the Gallipoli Peninsula, where his division was in the process of formation.

Meanwhile Enver was proceeding — again against the advice of von Sanders — with his second spectacular offensive. This was to be a swift descent upon the Suez Canal, with the object of ejecting the British from Egypt. The Turkish force, marching across the desert under the command of the German Colonel von Kress, took seven days to reach the Canal. But it marched by night and surprised the British. A few of its troops succeeded in crossing the Canal, but the west bank was strongly held and the defence was soon reinforced by British military and naval artillery. The Turkish force was thus forced to retire. Its incursion acted as a warning to the British, who proceeded so to build up the defence of the Canal Zone as virtually to preclude any future attack on Egypt by the Turks.

The Ottoman Government had made plans to move to Eskishehir, whither the Archives of the Sublime Porte and the gold from the banks had already preceded them.

The British naval attack of 18th March failed to break through the Narrows. It was not followed up. The British, for a complexity of causes, decided not to proceed with the campaign until they could support their fleet with a land advance — as indeed Liman von Sanders had prophesied that they would be obliged to do. Flags were put out by order in Constantinople. But few Turks seriously believed that this was a final victory. There was hard fighting still to be done.

Enver decided to form a separate army, the Fifth, for the defence of the Dardanelles, and appointed Liman von Sanders to command it. Liman asked for a new division, the Nineteenth, and it was to the command of this that Lieutenant-Colonel Mustafa Kemal had been posted, with his headquarters at Maidos. He had just two months in which to organize his troops before the Allies attacked.

 

Liman had little time, and wasted none; he assembled such forces and supplies as were to be found amidst the wreckage of the empire’s resources. He made his own command appointments, notably giving a responsible position to Mustapha Kemal, a Turkish officer who admired European ways and whose scorn of Ottoman backwardness and bitter consciousness that he was superior to those advanced over his head had, until then, kept him in obscure and unrewarding assignments.

Kemal was to prove the battlefield genius of the coining combat: the commander with the eye for the key tactical position, who would seize the high ground and dominate the field.

Liman was kept well informed of British progress in organizing an invasion force. News of the British expedition’s assembly and embarkation in Egypt was published by newspapers in Cairo and reported to the Turks by merchants in Alexandria. Later, Ottoman agents in neutral Greece could hardly have missed noticing the vast fleet as it moved through the islands of the Aegean, its lights and signal lamps shining brightly through the night, its military bands blaring above the sound of winds and waves by day.

Well—officered for once, the Ottoman defending forces under Liman’s workmanlike direction were waiting for the British invasion when it came. It was the type of engagement in which the steadfastness of the Ottoman soldiery could be employed to best advantage.

Sir Mark Sykes had pointed this out in late February in a letter to Churchill. He wrote that though they could be routed by a surprise attack, Turks always grow formidable if given time to think.”

For Sir Ian Hamilton, the British Commander, the campaign began the morning of 12 March when Lord Kitchener unexpectedly—and without explanation—summoned him to the War Office to offer him the command. He told the War Minister that he knew nothing about Turkey, and therefore that he needed at least some word of explanation and guidance.

As Hamilton later recalled, at their meeting the War Minister, while giving him command of the division that initially was being sent o to the Dardanelles in support of the navy, warned that the troops were “only to be a loan and are to be returned the moment they can be spared.” he explained that “all things earmarked for the East are looked on by powerful interests both at home and in France as having been stolen from the West.”

The Director of Military Operations at the War Office then briefed Hamilton by showing him a map and a plan of attack borrowed from the Greek General Staff. The War had not taken the time or trouble to work out one of their own.

General Hamilton was sent out with an inaccurate and out—of—date map, and little else to guide him. On seeing the Gallipoli peninsula for the first time, he remarked immediately that “the Peninsula looks a tougher nut to crack than it did on Lord K.’s small and featureless map.” it was a rugged landscape of ravines, and hills that divided the shoreline into tiny beaches cut off from one another.

Having traveled on a fast naval cruiser from Marseilles, Hamilton reached the coast of Gallipoli on 18 March, in time to influence de Robeck to call off the naval campaign. By late April he was steaming back toward the straits to command the army’s attack. He carefully followed the instructions that the War Minister had given him for the campaign. He was to attack only the European side of the straits: the Gallipoli peninsula, lie was not to attack until he had his whole force, which is why (despite his own misgivings) he had ordered the navy to take him back from Turkey to Egypt to assemble his forces. It took him about three weeks to organize his expeditionary force; then the navy took him back to Turkey  to launch his invasion of Gallipoli, the western (or European) shore of the Dardanelles .

It was a risky venture: indeed prewar British military studies that were revealed to the Cabinet by Asquith at the end of February had concluded that an attack on Gallipoli by the British army was too risky to be undertaken. Kitchener had ordered that it should be done nonetheless, saying that he believed the Ottoman generals had left the European side of the straits ignored or less defended.

At a War Council meeting, its only Tory member—the former Prime Minister Arthur Balfour- asked “whether the Turks were likely, if cut off, to surrender or to fight with their back to the wall.” Lloyd George said he “thought it more probable that they would make a stand”; but Kitchener replied that they would probably surrender.

A year later, a verdict on the matter was returned by Allied armies serving in the field. Compton Mackenzie, the young novelist—turned—war correspondent, reported from the Dardanelles that “French officers who have fought in the West say that as a fighting unit one Turk is worth two Germans; in fact, with his back to the wall the Turk is magnificent.”

GALLIPOLI ALLIED LANDING (ANZAC CAMPAIGN) AND MUSTAFA KEMAL

At dawn on 25 April 1915, the British, Dominion, and Allied armies waded ashore onto six narrow, unconnected beaches on the Gallipoli peninsula. The Turks, who had known when but not where the Allies would attack, were taken by surprise and probably could have been overwhelmed that day.

The northernmost invasion site, An Burnim, also proved a surprise to the Australian and New Zealand troops who landed there—the navy had taken them to the wrong beach. Ascending the steep slopes to the ridge above, they encountered Turkish soldiers who fled until rallied by their commander, Mustapha Kemal.

In  Lord Kinross’s words….. 

Mustafa Kemal knew the Gallipoli Peninsula from his operations against the Bulgarians in the Balkan War, when his headquarters as now was at Maidos. He had then formed strong opinions about its defence, which conflicted with those of his fellow staff officers.

They maintained that any enemy could be prevented from landing on the peninsula by adequate barbed wire defences on shore. Kemal argued, on the contrary, that any enemy could land under cover of naval fire and that it would be the task of the defence to tackle him after he had done so, from defensive positions inland.

Discussing these tactics with Rauf, who as a naval officer agreed with them, he had said at the time, putting himself in the place of the enemy, ‘You may have as many barbed wire defences as you like, but I can easily break them to pieces and land; and if I don’t find superior forces to stop my advance on land, I can very well occupy the peninsula.’

Kemal had learnt this lesson of military science during the Tripolitanian campaign, when the Italians had landed their troops under the cover of naval fire, making shore defence by the Turks impossible.

Under the German command it was, as Kemal had maintained that it should be, the principle of the Turkish defence to hold the rugged vertebrae of the peninsula oblige the enemy to storm them when once he had landed. Liman von Sanders, finding his six divisions scattered into small units along the coast line, grouped them together into fewer and larger concentrations inland, leaving a minimum of covering detachments on shore.

The question remained, where would the enemy land?

Kemal was convinced, from his knowledge of the terrain, that he would do so at two main points — Cape Helles, at the southern tip of the peninsula, where he could command the land on every side with his naval guns; and Gaba Tepe, on the western coast, whence he could most easily cross to the Narrows on the eastern coast.

But the assessment of Liman von Sanders was different. In his opinion the two likeliest points for a landing were the Asiatic coast, where he thus sent two divisions to the region of the field of Troy; and the narrow northern isthmus of the peninsula at Bulair, for which he earmarked two more.

Of his remaining two, one was sent to Cape Helles, while the last, the Nine-teenth, under his own direct control but under the effective command of Mustafa Kemal, was held as the main reserve of his army near Maidos, ready to move to any area, north, south or west, where the main attack might fall. This role suited Kemal, who chose as his headquarters the village of Boghali, north of the Narrows and within reach of either coast. Here he sat down to watch for the landings and prepare for the subsequent defence of the heights.

Soon after dawn on 25th April the Allied troops landed in force, as Kemal had foreseen, on these two groups of beaches — the British at Cape Helles and the Australians and New Zealanders north of Gaba Tepe. There were besides two diversionary maneuvers — a raid by the French on the Asiatic coast and a demonstration by the Royal Naval Division at Bulair. Von Sanders fell for this second diversion. The Allies, he judged, sought to cut the narrow neck of the peninsula and so isolate the whole of his army. He thus ordered a division northwards to Bulair, away, as it proved, from the battle, and rode there with his staff, later sending his corps commander, Essad Pasha, to look after the attack in the south, but leaving him, as the day wore on, without much-needed reinforcements.

Kemal on the other hand, awoken that morning at Boghali by the naval bombardment, found himself right at the centre of gravity. The sound of the guns came from beyond the Sari Bair range, a long and often precipitous ridge which ran parallel with the western coast, rising up to three prominent crests of a thousand feet, and breaking up near the sea into subsidiary ridges scored with ravines. At once he sent a cavalry squadron up the eastern slope of the ridge to the northerly crest of Koja Chemen to reconnoitre the position.

Next he received a report that a ‘small enemy force’ was advancing up its western slope to the southerly crest of Chunuk Bair, together with a request from the neighbouring division to send a battalion to check its advance.

Kemal saw at once what was happening. Here was no small enemy force; here was a major offensive. With his acute grasp of military essentials he knew that the Sari Bair ridge, and especially the Chunuk Bair crest, was now the key to the entire Turkish defence. Its capture would enable the enemy to dominate all sides of the peninsula. A single battalion would be totally insufficient to hold it.

The whole of his division would be needed. Acting on his own responsibility and exceeding his authority as a divisional commander, he thus ordered his best regiment, the Fifty-Seventh, with a mountain battery, to advance up the ridge to the crest of Koja Chemen. As it happened the regiment was already drawn up for a field exercise planned for that day. Kemal reported what he had done to corps head quarters then rode with an ADC and his chief medical officer to its head quarters to hasten and lead the advance.

Kemal’s decision was a bold one. He was committing the bulk of von Sanders’ reserve on the basis of not very clear information as to the strength of the enemy, but only on that of his own intuitive conviction that this was the crucial attack. Had his judgement been wrong, had the enemy planned another important landing elsewhere, there would have been only one Turkish regiment left to resist it. But he was right, and in his abounding self-confidence knew it.

The Australians had indeed landed in force, not at Gaba Tepe, as they had planned and as the Turks had expected, but on a beach at Ariburnu — the ‘Cape of Bees’ .— in more difficult country a mile to the north of it, to which an uncharted current had carried their boats. It was a place to be known as Anzac Cove. Here the Turks were unprepared for them, and despite the more formidable natural obstacles they were able to advance against only confused opposition up the western slopes of the ridge.

Up the eastern slopes the path of Kemal with his regimental officers and men, winding through strong scrubby undergrowth amid a confusion of dried-up watercourses strewn with boulders, was hard to find. Two guides, sent on ahead, lost touch with the main body and it was Kemal himself, riding at the head of a company and consulting a map and compass, who finally led the way.

From Koja Chemen he looked down on the shimmering sea and the ships of the enemy scattered across it, but his view of the advance, among the broken ridges beneath, was blocked. Seeing that his men were tired from their arduous climb, he ordered their officers to give them a ten-minute break. Then he moved on himself, with a few of his staff, towards Chunuk Bair. They started to ride but, finding the terrain too rough, dismounted and proceeded on foot. Near the crest they came upon a company of men streaming down over the ridge in full retreat. They were a unit of the outpost screen, spread out to watch for the landings, which for more than three hours had been the only force to oppose the enemy.

Kemal stopped them and asked, ‘What’s up? Why are you running away?’

‘They come, they come,’ was the reply.

‘Who comes?’

‘Sir, the enemy. Ingiliz, Ingiliz.’

‘Where?’ he asked. They pointed down the slope to a patch of scrub, from which a line of Australians was freely advancing. They were closer to Kemal than his own troops, whom he had left behind to rest. ‘Whether by logic or instinct’ as he afterwards put it, he said to the retreating soldiers, ‘You cannot run away from the enemy.’

They protested, ‘Our ammunition is finished.’

‘You have your bayonets,’ he said. He commanded them to fix bayonets and to lie down on the ground. He sent an officer back to instruct his own infantrymen to come up at the double, together with any available gunners from the mountain battery. Then, as he observed, ‘When our men lay down, the enemy lay down. This was the moment of time that we gained.’

It was a moment of hesitation by the Anzacs which may well have decided the fate of the peninsula. While they hesitated the Fifty-Seventh Regiment began to come up, and Kemal sent it straight into action. He rode through the forward positions, driving the troops over the slope with unwavering energy. Placing his mountain battery on the ridge, he helped to wheel its guns into position.

Kemal himself spent the night without sleep, riding over the whole front, trying to obtain information and giving orders for the following day. Reinforcements were being landed, under cover of darkness, as he rode. But the morale of the Anzacs was shaken — by the unfamiliar shrapnel fire, by the unforeseen rigours of the terrain, by the disruption of units, which drove leaderless men back to the beach in their hundreds.

Around midnight Sir Ian Hamilton, the British Commander-in-Chief, was awoken from his sleep aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth by a message from General Birdwood, the Anzac commander. It was an admission of defeat and a proposal for an immediate evacuation. Hamilton wrote immediately to Birdwood that a supreme effort must be made to hold on.

The southern force had established a bridgehead around Cape Helles, and should advance tomorrow, diverting pressure from Ariburnu. He added a postscript: ‘You have got through the difficult business and you have only to dig, dig, dig until you are safe.’ Later he wrote in his diary: ‘Better to die like heroes on the enemy’s ground than be butchered like sheep on the beaches like the runaway Persians at Marathon.’ Such were the fruits of Kemal’s leadership of the Turks that crucial day.

 

 

(NOTE: The text was mainly borrowed from Lord Kinross’ book “Ataturk The Birth of A Nation” Since book is under Copyright  the text intentionally omits  many parts of Lord Kinross’ writings on this subject andf the text is only for reference purposes. Lord Kinross’ complete writings may be found here)

 

 

The battle raged all day. There were moments when it could have gone either way; but in the end the Turks drove tile invaders back down the slope.

At the tip of Gallipoli, the five other Allied landings were at beachheads code-named 5, V, W, X, and V. At V there were no Turks, and the invaders climbed unopposed to the top of the cliff that dominated the beach; but instead of marching on, they stopped because of confusion as to who was in command. At X, meeting little opposition, the attackers also mounted the cliff head also stopped there. At 5, the handing party met little opposition, but made camp on the beach without attempting to ascend to the top of the slope that overlooked it. Allies held an overwhelming numerical superiority that day.

The most of Liman’s forces were held in reserve at a distance from the battlefield—and at beaches Y, X, and S the invasion forces could have exploited their surprise attack by advancing and destroying the small Turkish garrison in the vicinity.

By 26 April the situation had changed. Turkish reinforcements started to pour in, and in a sense it was all over: a cheap victory at Gallipoli was no longer in sight for the Allies. General Birdwood, commander of the ANZAC forces, on the advice of his officers, recommended re-embarking and abandoning the positions his forces occupied. But Sir Ian Hamilton, Birdwood’s commanding officer, decided instead to dig in.

Unknowingly, Hamilton thereby conceded that the expedition he led—and which was intended to break the military stalemate in the war—was doomed to fail. As had been shown in France and Flanders, digging in was more likely to produce a stalemate than break one; and indeed, in futile, bloody assaults on fixed positions, Gallipoli was to become a drawn-out replay of the trench warfare on the western front.

 

 

The Australians pulled themselves together and dug. The clink of shovels was everywhere heard on the hillside. Next morning Kemal remained on the defensive. His losses in the initial battle had been heavy; moreover he knew that the imminent danger was now in the south, at Cape Helles, where all available reserves would be needed. He resumed his attack only on receiving reinforcements from Bulair. Hamilton, from the deck of his war ship, watched the operation, this time effectively countered by shell-fire from land and sea. He recalled it in his Gallzpoli Diary: 

Under so many savage blows [ wrote], the labouring mountains brought forth Turks. Here and there advancing lines; dots moving over green patches; dots following one another across a broad red scar on the flank of Sari Bair; others following — and yet others — and others, closing in, disappearing, reappearing in close waves converging on the central and highest part of our position. The tic-tac of the machine-guns and the rattle of the rifles accompanied the roar of the big guns as hail, pouring down on a greenhouse, plays fast and loose amidst the peals of God’s artillery. The fire slackened. The attack had ebbed away; our fellows were holding their ground. A few, very few little dots had run back over that green patch — the others had passed down into the world of darkness.

Like the Anzacs the Turks now dug in. On both sides the initial impetus, with its element of surprise, had waned. But Kemal, following a minor attack on the enemy on 30th April, was determined on a third counter-attack before they could land further reinforcements.

Aware of the necessity to keep up the morale of his men and the spirit of leadership in his officers, he called a group of them together at his headquarters, now known as Kemalieri — Kemal’s Place. They sat cross-legged around him ‘a la Turka’ on the floor of his tent, and wrote on pads in the palms of their hands as he briefed them. ‘I am convinced,’ he instructed, ‘that we must finally drive the enemy opposing us into the sea if it means the death of us all. Our position com pared to the enemy’s is not weak. His morale has been completely broken. He is ceaselessly digging to find himself a refuge. You saw how he ran away immediately when a few shells dropped near his trenches. . . . I am convinced that there is not one amongst the troops we command who would not rather die here than see a second chapter of our Balkan disgrace. If you feel there are such men, then let us shoot them with our own hands.’

To the troops themselves he issued an order of the day:

Every soldier who fights here with me must realize that he is in honor bound not to retreat one step. Let me remind you all that if you want to rest there may be no rest for our whole nation throughout eternity. I am sure that all our comrades agree on this, and that they will show no signs of fatigue until the enemy is finally hurled into the sea.

The section commanders were told to trust to only one thing their soldiers’ bayonets. The soldiers, as they advanced, must not stop short of the enemy trenches. They must, when it grew dark, jump right into them.

On the eve of the attack, the German Colonel Kannengiesser arrived at Kemal’s headquarters to take over the command of another division — for the present inextricably confused with Kemal’s own.

He was impressed by this ‘clear-thinking, active, quiet man, who knew what he wanted. He weighed and decided everything for himself, without looking elsewhere for support or agreement to his opinions. He spoke accordingly but little, and was always reserved and retiring without being unfriendly. He did not appear to be very strong bodily, although extremely wiry. His stubborn energy gave him apparently complete control, both of his troops and of himself.’

The attack at first went well, against a single shore battery. But Kemal had miscalculated. Aware as he had been, as a strategist, of the impossibility of preventing an enemy invasion covered by naval fire, he had underrated its tactical power once the enemy had landed. The British warships, strongly supported by the heavy artillery on shore, began to shell Kemal’s positions, protected only by out-of-date mountain guns, and his onslaught immediately flagged. Attack after attack was smashed by the overwhelming superiority of their gun power, and a number of Turkish battalions broke in panic and ran. Kemal threw in all his reserves in the hope of a break-through by night. But he failed to penetrate the enemy’s positions. For once, he had suffered a major tactical defeat. ‘The battle,’ he recorded, ‘which has lasted for twenty-four hours, had caused great fatigue to our troops, and I gave an order for the attack to stop.’

In June Kemal was promoted full colonel. Liman von Sanders, though he found him hard to handle, fully appreciated his qualities as a divisional commander.

Mustafa Kemal had won for his country the first round in the Gallipoli campaign he still had no say in its general direction. There were continual disputes with corps headquarters as to the extent of his command, the inadequacy of its forces, its exact delimitation with the command adjoining, which was now given to a German officer, Major Willmer. Kemal was convinced that Essad Pasha, the corps commander, did not attach enough importance to this Ariburnu area, and wrote to him of its defence problems in continual and laborious detail. Fixed singly in his mind still was the Sari Bair ridge, with its peaks of Chunuk Bair and Koja Chemen.

 

(NOTE: The text was mainly borrowed from Lord Kinross’ book “Ataturk The Birth of A Nation” Since book is under Copyright  the text intentionally omits  many parts of Lord Kinross’ writings on this subject andf the text is only for reference purposes. Lord Kinross’ complete writings may be found here)

 

 

Hamilton had positioned his troops at best to fight the Turks to a draw, but at worst to suffer disaster. While the Turks dug in on the dominating heights, the British commanders ordered their troops to entrench on the beaches; and there at the water’s edge the Allied fight eventually became one for survival. Soon most members of the British government in London came to view evacuation as the only solution, but Churchill and Kitchener fought against it: Churchill because he was never willing to accept defeat, and Kitchener because he believed it would be a disaster for a British army to be seen to be defeated by a Middle Eastern one.

 

If and when the enemy reinforced their troops and resumed the offensive, as they had openly shown their intention of doing, it would once more be the major objective. He had been convinced of its importance before, and had been proved right; he was convinced of it still. 

He tried in vain to convince Essad Pasha. A key to the defence of the heights was the ravine of Sazlidere, which led directly up to Chunuk Bair, offering valuable cover to an enemy advancing over the foothills towards it. It had at first been included in his command but was now, it seemed, to form the dividing line between the two commands. Who in fact was to control so important an area, he or the German major? It was essential that this should be clarified.

Essad Pasha came down to divisional headquarters with his chief of staff, to see for himself. Kemal took them up on to the top of the ridge and gave them a lecturer’s eye-view of the whole position, spread beneath and around them — the broken rocky country on either side of Sazlidere, the beach below it, the bay of Suvia and the salt lake beyond, the line of the ridge stretching north-eastwards to the summit of Koja Chemen. Rising to meet the sky, it looked from here like an unscalable slope.

The chief of staff remarked that only raiding parties could advance through such difficult country. Essad Pasha asked Kemal, ‘Where will the enemy come from?’ Kemal waved his hand in the direction of Ariburnu and the line of the coast as far as Suvla: ‘From there.’

‘Very well,’ replied the Pasha, ‘if he does come from there, then how will he advance?’

Kemal pointed again at Ariburnu and described a broad half circle towards Koja Chemen: ‘That’s how he will advance.’

The Pasha smiled and patted him on the shoulder. ‘Don’t worry, Bey Effendi. He can’t do it.’

Kemal saw that it was useless to continue the discussion. ‘Insh’allah,’ he exclaimed. ‘Let’s hope you are right.’

Kemal recorded the interview in his diary. In the light of what afterwards happened he underlined the passage in red ink, adding to the entry a justi fled comment on those who had disagreed with him, and whose inadequate measures had ‘greatly endangered the military position and the fate of the country’. For the second time Kemal was right.

Meanwhile, he wrote in French to Corinne Lutfü, with whom he had been in correspondence since the start of the campaign:

Here the view is not so calm. Every day and night shrapnel and other shells burst incessantly above our heads. The shells whistle and the noise of the bombs mingles with that of the cannons. In effect, we are living an infernal life. Happily our soldiers are very brave and much more resistant than the enemy.

Besides, their easy comradeship greatly facilitates the execution of my orders, which often demand death. As it happens, this leads only to two celestial results: to become a victorious Gazi or a Chehad. Do you know what this last means? To go straight away to Paradise, where the houris, God’s most beautiful women, will come to receive them and remain permanently at their disposal. Supreme happiness!

He had a desire, he added, to read some novels to ‘help soften the hard character which present events have developed in me, and to make me capable of responding to some of the good and agreeable things in life’. He asked Corinne to give a list of appropriate titles to a mutual friend in Constantinople, that he might procure him the books. They could provide some slight substitute for that charming and intelligent conversation of Corinne’s, with which it was her habit to seduce the entire world.

(NOTE: The text was mainly borrowed from Lord Kinross’ book “Ataturk The Birth of A Nation” Since book is under Copyright  the text intentionally omits  many parts of Lord Kinross’ writings on this subject andf the text is only for reference purposes. Lord Kinross’ complete writings may be found here)

 

 

 

(The text outside of the table cells are reflected from: A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East            David Fromkin p. 150-158    Continue reading here…………. )

 

 

 

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