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Landings of Gallipoli Campaign Begin: April 25, 1915

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Fold3 Image - Gallipoli Peninsula
On April 25, 1915, troops from across the British Empire as well as France went ashore on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey, beginning the land offensive of the Gallipoli Campaign (also called the Dardanelles Campaign), which would end in high casualties and evacuation for them eight months later.

With trench warfare causing stagnation in the fight on the Western Front, the British and French decided to launch an attack against the Ottoman Empire, one of the Central Powers. The plan was to use naval power to break through the Dardanelles, a straight connecting the Mediterranean to the Black Sea, and then capture the Turkish capital of Constantinople (Istanbul). The naval attack began in February and March, but hidden mines made the British and French ships withdraw in failure.

After a month’s delay due to supply problems, the land offensive began on April 25, with 78,000 British and French troops landing at Cape Helles (at the tip of the peninsula) and what would become known as Anzac Cove (further north and named for the Australian and New Zealand troops that landed there). Some landings were met with fierce resistance and high casualties, while others were accomplished without much opposition.

Fold3 Image - Anzac landing beaches
But once the troops came ashore, little progress was made, and attempts to push forward were halted by the Turks and their German allies, leaving the Anglo-French forces trapped not far from their landing beaches. Despite renewed offensives (most notably at Suvla Bay in August) and reinforcements over the coming months, both sides settled into a high-casualty stalemate from within a system of trenches, where sickness and disease were rampant. Finally, in October, the commanding officer, British general Ian Hamilton, was replaced, and the new general, Charles Monro, decided to evacuate by sea despite estimates that an evacuation would result in extremely high casualties.

Amazingly, however, the British and French were able to evacuate some one hundred thousand men secretly and with very limited casualties, making the evacuation arguably the most successful part of the whole campaign. They evacuated Anzac Cove and Suvla Bay in December 1915, and Cape Helles in January 1916. By the time they left, the Allied Powers had sustained some 200,000 casualties (killed, injured, or sick) and the Turks had suffered at least 87,000 deaths, with many more than that in other casualties.

Did you have a family member who served at Gallipoli? Tell us about them! Or learn more about the campaign on Fold3 in our British Commonwealth Military Collection.

59 Comments

  1. Alfred Carter was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for Gallantry on 7 August 1916.
    He was aboard HMS The Jed which “was covering the re-embarkation of irregular troops in the Gulf of Xeros and rapid fire was required. The gunlayer of the aft (Able Seaman Sampson Thompson) was killed. Able Seaman Carter immediately carried on serving the gun with great effect. The gun misfired twice, and Able Seaman Carter without hesitation opened the breech, threw the cartridges overboard, and continued firing.”
    Able Seaman had been in the Navy for 17 years at this time and had not been home for 6 years.

  2. Even though Gallipoli is considered a disaster, it arguably helped win World War II later. How??? The United states Marine Corps made a special study of the campaign after WW 1 was over– in its quest for relevance. From that study, the U.S. Marine Corps, with the U.S. Navy, cobbled together the amphibious doctrine that was successfully used in both the European/African and Pacific theaters during WWII and after, and still today. They noted the mistakes made and devised means to avoid them in the future. It still sucks if you lost family or friends at Gallipoli, but this dismal failure helped save lives later.

    • Most folks forget that a defeat is only a failure if you neglect to use it as a learning experience. Gallipoli is a tremendous example of that.

    • What was interesting about the US Marine and Navy studies is they looked specifically at the basic equipment, the logistic issues of supplying across the beach and weapons needed at each phase of the attack. They also studied the real source of the defeat which was the refusal of the Armies to move quickly to launch the attack. the Armies did not want to sent their men and it was a case of pulling teeth. Delay after delay resulted in the troops not arriving until the Turks had built defenses. If the attack had been launched as a combined naval and land assault, it probably would have succeeded in capturing Istanbul and the western European part of Turkey. The biggest lesson was the amphibious troops had to be specialist assault troops under Naval command and control to establish a beach head. Churchill did not cause the Gallipolli defeat though he is often blamed, but rather Lord Kitchner. Strategically, it was a good move and seizing the European side of the straits would have been huge. Odds are it would have mattered a great deal in the East and the war would have been different. It is notable that the only other country that studied Gallipoli was Japan which is the only other country besides the US that launched a large scale amphibious campaign (1942).

  3. An important fact is that future PM Winston Churchill was the head of the British Admiralty (actual Title evades me this moment) and was the leading agent provocateur for this near catastrophe. The nature of this folly and the casualties arising thereof made Churchill a toxic figure to the point that it was commonly believed his future in British politics was dim. He was especially loathed by the Australian and New Zealand press arising from the inordinate losses of life amongst the ANZAC forces. The movie Gallipoli is a vivid portrayal of this campaign.

    • Churchill is still reviled among Australians who still remember his part in the war. Especially when he was willing to let the Japanese take Australia because he wanted the troops elsewhere.He told our PM they wouls get Australia back later. Thankfully our PM was strong enough to disregard Churchills demands and brought our troops back to defend against Japanese.

    • First Sea Lord was his title

    • Sir Winston was featured in one of the songs in G&S “Pirates of Penzance”

  4. I think the role of Churchill is often mis-stated. The strategic idea was sound. The execution was faulty. It illustrates the folly of putting an operation in the hands of someone who does not believe in it.
    Several of the major landings were initially successful but were badly botched by the commanders.
    The same thing happened at Anzio in WW II, in which a successful surprise landing was botched because the commander decided to dig in against a counterattack before moving forward to the commanding terrain. The result was that the Germans had the time to move troops to that high ground and hold it for months.
    Beachhead operations must be aggressively exploited to seize the key terrain and set the situation up to put arriving defenders at a disadvantage. Churchill understood this, but he seemed to have bad luck in the commanders assigned to his operations.

    • Anzio is actually an excellent comparison. The original idea for the landings was proposed by Patton before he was relieved of the 7th Army command. In the first planning for the Italian campaign he wanted the English to land at the base of the boot and draw in the Germans and Italian formation. Once they had moved down, Patton wanted to land the entire 7th Army at Anzio and cut straight across the entire peninsula and trap the Germans in the south. Italy would have been out of the war in September 1943 ( and Patton the liberator of Rome!). After Patton’s removal, they instead sent the redesignated 5th Army into Salerno which did not trap anyone. The push into Anzio was a belated attempt to turn the German lines, but they put in a fraction of the forces needed and the commanders failed to execute on day one. Several battalions/regiments were pushing for the high ground when ordered to stop. If even part of the chain of hills had been captured the entire landing would have been different. Exactly like Gallipolli. all the issues of lack of supplies, the wrong loading in the ships, etc. were the same as Gallioplli. And most critically was the lack of leadership in both campaigns. The First Special Force unit (a regiment) at Anzio held three times the front of any US division and routinely sent patrols deep behind German lines. Their reports of stretched German defenses were ignored and few genuine attempts were made to breakout of the beachhead until June 1944.

  5. Anzio was messed up because the army forgot what Marines are taught very early–to load what you will need first last, so that you don’t have to try to dig to the bottom of the ship to find. This was the case at Anzio–badly needed tanks and artillery were in the bottom of holds with less urgent crap on top of them. Unfortunately, I think some Marines have forgotten that also, these days.

    • Aussie artillery was in action late on the25th. My grandfather was an artilleryman there and they were.in action the of the25th afternoon.

  6. Agree with Jim Horn, generally.

  7. It’s a great pleasure to get something in my email that is intelligent, interesting and a pleasure to read. I enjoy history and look forward to more.

    • concur!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • I totally agree. I actually failed U.S. History in high school (many, many years ago!), but can’t get enough of history in general now that I’m of Medicare age! Keep the history news coming; we can always learn from triumphs and mistakes that have been endured by our forefathers.

  8. It is important to realize that: The reason history is repeated is that little is too often learned the first time around!

  9. this battle had a wider historic influence for all the nations involved. The article discusses the impact on the “western” allies but it also launched Mustafa Kamal into history and the modern Turkish state which was the end of the Ottoman Empire. The end of the Ottomans then left us with what is now the Middle east.

    On a smaller scale, in the late 70s I was in Istanbul and I had some friends in the British Consulate. They told me a story of an elderly former British solder that came to the consulate about once a month for his mail. He made the journey from a small town near Gallipoli. He had been in that battle and was bound to the graves of his comrades.

    • Right. As I remember Mustafa Kamal was a young officer in Istanbul at the time, perhaps a captain, who led the Turkish troops from Istanbul to the invasion site where the invaders were awaiting orders to move off the beach. He made his name there and later became dictator replacing the sultan, with army and people support.

  10. The other failure of the campaign was a lack of understanding the terrain and the Army’s ignoring the advice of the knowledgeable people on their staff in Cairo.
    It has always amazed me that the Navy didn’t expect mines when it was common knowledge that the German army & navy were advising the Turks.
    Its also interesting to speculate what might have happened if they had landed farther up the West coast of the pensula

  11. there was a short series on AUS TV called “ANZAC Girls” about the nurses who dealt with more than the wounded. I HIGHLY recommend it. It is true stories based on their letters, diaries, etc…

  12. We really need a listing of the various regiments and battalions involved and how far they got in the pipeline.

    • Re units serving in Gallipoli.
      My father Albert Donald Victor Phillips was serving with the 5th Battalion The Suffolk Regiment. He recieved a gun shot wound to the head and was evacuated to Egypt and then to England on the Hospital Ship Essquiobo.
      Peter Phillips

  13. The Scotsman-Friday, 30th July 1915
    RANK and File
    Royal Scots Casualties, 4th Battalion-Killed
    Alexander Belford was killed at Dardanelles on 23 June. He was educated at St. Mary’s Cathedral Choir School and before the war he was employed in the Scottish Insurance Corporation, Limited. He resided at 13 Dean Park Street.

    Drummer Philip Duke was killed in action on the 28th June at Dardanelles. He was 22 years of age and had been over three years in the corps. His father (Philip Duke) was for 21 years a member of the old “Queen’s”. He has two other brothers with the colours, one in the 4th Royal Scots, and the other in the 3rd regiment. He resided at 38 India Place, Edinburgh.

  14. In the course of updating my family tree on Ancestry.com, I learned that the uncle of the wife of a first cousin once removed was killed in action at Gallipoli. He was Private William Bernard Hatton, born 28 Feb 1881 in Stafford, Staffordshire, England. He died on 5 Apr 1916. At the time of his death he had been married eight years and had a seven-year-old son. He was with the 9th (Service) Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment and is buried in Al Basra, Basra, Iraq.

  15. The British-French naval force should have just pushed through instead of retreating after three battleships were sunk. The Turks only laid a small number of mines and had no more supplies. Unfortunately at the Suvla Bay, a totally incompetent British general was put in charge (the Aussies truly hated him and especially British control of their forces) and just waited around all day long while his forces consolidated the beachhead. This allowed the Turks to reinforce the heights. If he had ordered the troops to advance immediately as we did at Normandy, he probably could have seized the height before the Turks could. This could have changed the outcome of Gallipoli. Gallipoli is an amazing place. I attended the 75th Anniversary ceremonies.

  16. Glasgow Herald 7 Aug 1915: LAW–Killed in action at Dardanelles, on 12 July,
    Lance-Corporal Hilton Law, 7th Battalion Cameronians, aged 32 of Valparaiso,
    Chile, third son of late Alexander Law, coalmaster, Airdrie and of Mrs. Law,
    Overlee Road, Clarkston.
    ***
    Lance-Corporal Hilton Law, 7th Scottish Rifles (Cameronians), killed at
    Dardanelles on 12th July, was the third son of the late Mr. Alexander Law,
    coalmaster, Airdrie, and of Mrs. Law, Overlee Road, Clarkston. A Langside boy,
    he was educated at Hutchesons’ Grammar School. About nine years ago he went to
    Chile, where latterly he was head of the shipping department in the important firm of
    Messrs Graham, Rowe, & Co., Valparaiso. Just before the outbreak of war he
    arrived home on holiday and he enlisted in September in the 7th Scottish Rifles.
    ***
    And from a letter home, just earlier:
    Gallipolli, 30 June 1915
    Dear Mike
    We are now back again to the base of which I spoke in previous letter, after having
    three very exciting days in the firing line. Our regiment has suffered very badly
    along with the others of our brigade, as you will have seen from the papers. Luckily
    I came out all right, though it seems to be a miracle that this is so. I had volunteered
    to take a message back from one line of trenches to another and a shell burst just at
    my side, part of it passing between my arm and body. It ripped my pouches, belt,
    jacket and shirt and left me with a whole skin. A bullet also passed through my
    helmet without touching me, but this latter was quite common as many fellows of
    our Company have holes in their helmets without suffering any personal harm. I am
    hoping that we shall be allowed a good rest now in the comparative safety of the
    base and in any case I think it is unlikely that we shall land into so fierce a thing as
    Monday’s struggle for some time. Some of the regulars who have been here all
    along say it was the worst since the landing. It was an experience that I never want
    to have again. I think our lot did very well through I have not heard or am likely to
    hear the official report. I hope you have not been worrying about me and that
    Mamma is all right. I feel quite bucked up again as I got a fine rest last night, not
    even when some shells fell in our vicinity and I had a fine sea bath and general clean
    up today. A really good feed would make me as contented again as ever.

    The letter goes on to talk of family things and several times mentions his lack of paper for writing. Hilton Law was my grandfather’s brother.

  17. My great grandfather’s brother Georges Charles Koehler died in the Gallipoli Campaign while serving in the French Foreign Legion. We have a document issued by the French government thanking him for having died for France.

  18. Churchill was First Lord of the Admiralty, the cabinet officer in charge of the Royal Navy. First Sea Lord was the title of the senior naval officer in the Royal Navy. One can certainly question the strategic wisdom of landing an invasion force at the tip of a peninsula which offered numerous opportunities for relatively few defenders to block the advance with entrenched positions across the narrow neck of the peninsula. Churchill, of course, was largely responsible for the decision to invade Italy in WWII, which has a lot of parallels to the Gallipoli campaign.

    • The issue with penninsulas anywhere, whether it’s at gallipoli, Italy, or Korea, is that. yes they do have a lot of opportunities for heavy fortification. A principal exception would be Denmark, which is very flat. But Penninsulas are “Almost Islands,” which maens that with superior seapower, they can be outflanked from the water. As occurred in Korea at Inchon–you could even argue that the Hungnam evacuation was a successful amphibious operation; that was the intent of Anzio, could have worked just like Inchon. I think maybe Gallipoli could have worked too.

      As for the italycampaign in WWII, I think that maybe there were lost opportunities todo other landings further up the Italian penninsula. Then maybe the harfer,, bloodier slugfests. like monte Casino could have been avoided. The German COmander Kesselring would have had a much harder time with resupply cut off from the rear. Eventually, the war would end, and he and all his troops would’ve been stuck in italy.

    • Churchill proposed at first a raid by the Navy, but then it grew to a combined operations. The British and French Navies both saw the advantages of the campaign and put a lot of ships into it. The British Army under Lord Kitchner was not interested adn only agreed when the Cabinet voted for the campaign. Units selected were generally either mauled division being rested or the Australian and New Zealand troops who were available in Egypt. there was no planning and no effort made to identify clear objectives. The British commander had contempt for the Turks and ignored advice from officers who knew the Turkish army. Churchill had hoped to seize a port and land most of the troops that way. The Army wanted to be closer to the Dardanelles and picked landing locations based on little information. There was no communication between the Army and the Navy about what cargo was needed and when. They simply loaded it as it came down to the docks. No one in either service had any experience in this type of operation at all. The Army commander was actually shocked that there were no wharves to unload on because that was all he knew.

      The Turks actually knew the Allies were pulling out, but did not take a chances. They were willing to let them go rather than risk a mess when they had a great victory.

  19. If you have not done so read “A Peace to End All Peace”

  20. Viewed from the high emplacements the cemetery, maintained by Turkey, is laid out in the pattern of the Union Jack.

  21. I may have missed it in all the comments but has anyone read Morehead’s book on Gallipoli that came out in 1956?? Great reading for some of the details.

    • I have just read Alan Moorhead’s book “Gallipoli” and could hardly put it down despite the horror.
      My Grandfather and 2 Great Uncles were at Gallipoli in the NZ forces and all somehow survived.
      Churchill and Kitchener had a lot to answer for.

    • Both of those men had made names for themselves with the re-taking of the Sudan in the late 1800s but they made mistakes with Turkey…of even going there. The Sudan resulted in Churchill’s first book and as I remember he was in one of the last cavalry charges of the British army at Khartoum and Kitchener was in charge of the force that re-took Khartoum, the book, “With Kitchener to Khartoum”.

  22. My Grandfather Alexander MacNeil, born Inverness, Scotland 24/8/1892, was with the AIF 10th infantry Battalion, which together with the 9th, 11th and 12th Battalions made up the 3rd Brigade.This Brigade was the covering force for the ANZAC landing and so was the first ashore at around 4:30 am.
    He was promoted twice in the field to Corporal and then Sergeant and served there until the evacuation in December, 10th Battalion being the last AIF Battalion to be evacuated.
    He went on to fight in France where he was wounded by shrapnel, a pocket book and a note book in his breast pocket saving his life by deflecting the shrapnel away from his lungs and into his abdomen.
    Promoted to Lieutenant, he was recommended for the Victoria Cross for his actions at Bullecourt in repelling a fierce German counter attack on the Hindenburg Line but was ultimately awarded the Distinguished Service Order.
    He was discharged at wars end and returned to Australia in July 1922.

  23. The scout party that was supposed to recce the shore for ANZAC landing was misled by a Turkish JCO,who carried their boat westward toward the cliff fall.The recce party on return to the boat signaled for the landing and that is how the Turks had the better of their rivals.

    • The usual write ups of what happened to end in the disaster was that after the unopposed landing, the troops awaited further orders to move off the beach which did not come until the Turks, under Ataturk , had time to move troops all the way from Istanbul to oppose the landing.

  24. Clyde Albert Aunger, of San Francisco, California, my great-uncle, was a manufacturer of prosthetics. His reputation for quality was widely known. Shortly after the Australian soldiers returned home, the Australian government, asked the U.S. government to send him to Australia to teach more people there how to manufacture prosthetics because the need was so great. Clyde had not been able to joint the ranks of the Americans in the war because he, himself, had lost a leg in a street-car accident as a teenager.

    The U.S. government cooperated, and Clyde spent the next two years in Australia, building prosthetic factories in many states and territories across the continent, and teaching the people how to manufacture and fit them. There are articles in many Australian newspapers of that time, telling of the progress being made on the project. I found them in the on-line newspaper collection of the National Library of Australia.

    Because of going abroad on government business in time of war, Clyde had to provide a three- generation genealogy proving that there were no family members in Europe against whom retribution could be taken. Strangely enough, while he was in South Australia, he met some members of the family, who he didn’t know lived there. They were descendants of his great-grandfather’s sister, hence his third cousins.

  25. A few years ago I flew over the landing sites however, was not able to make much out. I understand water was very short during the assault. God bless those men who fought for us so mant years ago.

  26. There were quite a few of poorly trained Texas & Oklahoma troops that lost their lives at Anzio. They were members of the 143rd Infantry Regiment as active duty members. Previous to that that had been members of the National Guard. The main problem was that the English were suppose to furnish air support for our ground troops but they didn’t

  27. Gallipoli was the first modern amphibious assault involving multiple large units. Prior to Gallipoli, you seized a port and landed your troops and supplies on piers. A few “point to point” or “shore to shore” amphibious assaults were attempted during the Civil War and were generally unsuccessful. Marines executed several amphibious assaults in the 1870’s on Korean shores. Most of these assaults were by small units, Marine detachments on board Navy ships, probably the size of a company.

    Probably the first reasonably “successful” U.S. amphibious assault executed by
    Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders, culminating in the “Battle of San Juan Hill”.

    It’s interesting to speculate how history would have ichanged if Hannibal had executed an amphibious at Ostia, Rome’s port, instead of marching his forces through North Africa, Spain, Gaul and over the Alps.

    • Actually Winfield Scott made some interesting innovations when U.S. troops landed at vera cruz during the 1847 ish war between the U.S. and Mexico. One of those innovations was specialized landing craft, etc. Winfield Scott during his career made many significant contributions to the U.S. army, e.g., The U.S. horse artillery was some of the best in the world during the war with mexico–how we won a lot of battles that in other times might have been lost.

  28. My Grandfather’s cousin (William Wolseley Faloner) was a telegraphist operator on the AE2 Aussie Sub that got through the Dardanelles (the only one) caused havoc and sent a message back to the British base about their success. They wore shelling from the Turks and had to sink their sub. They became prisoners of war to the Turks and Germans. See Stokers Book on this subject.

  29. I suspect the person that studied it the most was Churchill!! He obviously used it as a learning experience. Mulberrys, etc., etc.

  30. My grandfather, Edwin F Heath, was a young (20 yr old) ANZAC soldier from Australia who served in Gallipoli in the Eighth Lighthorse from Australia. He returned to Australia with tuberculosis among other medical conditions which he suffered from most of his life after the war. He also suffered from what is now called: PTSD. It must have been hell on earth for all concerned.

  31. Fyi
    Salmon P Chase Secretary of Treasury for Abraham Lincoln and namesake for the Chase National Bank.

    1877 John P Morgan Thompson a Great Grand of Salmon merged ten failing banks naming it JP Morgan Chase & Co.,

  32. My grandfather Fredrick John “Bill” Bailey.land on the Afternoon of the 25th and served till mid July when he was repatriated home.

  33. Gallipoli is a classic case of arm chair strategic thinking. Churchill deserves the blame for this catastrophe. It looked great on a big map in London, but with absolutely no idea on how it could be executed. The terrain was cliffs that had to be climbed under fire, and it was assumed the the Turks would run away when they landed. Nothing was accomplished except for a great loss of men and materiel.

    • And if I am not mistaken, the troops waited for a couple of days awaiting orders to move after an unopposed landing, giving a young Mustafa Kamal (Ataturk) time to bring troops from Istanbul to oppose the movement of the invaders off the beach and up some very difficult terrain. No?

  34. an excellent movie about this campaign is “The Water Diviner”

  35. to Lyn Johnson: Churchill did the same to Hong Kong. He didn’t want to waste his troops on saving Hong Kong from a Japanese invasion. But the Canadians came to the rescue and did what they could. Shame on Churchill.

  36. if need to find information try wiki!

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