Anatolia has for centuries possessed an enormous strategic importance as a result of the policies adapted by powers in their attempt to reach the high seas and warmer climates and other powers who wanted to establish sovereignty over the Middle East, the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean by means of a geo-political belt stretching from the Baltic throughout the Bosphorus to the Persian Gulf.
The situation during 1. World War
At the beginning of the 20th century the political climate in Europe was extremely tense. The great powers of Europe in order to gain sovereignty in both the geo-political and economic spheres had split Europe into two blocs; Germano-Latin and Anglo-French.
Thus the Triple Alliance between Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy and the Triple Entente between Britain, France and Russia were founded.
When the outbreak of the 1st WW seemed imminent, the Ottoman Empire attempted to ally herself with the Entente under the conditions that her borders were guaranteed and that the economic capitulations were abolished. Upon receiving a negative response, the Empire found herself obliged to join the Triple Alliance and signed the treaty of 2nd August 1914.
The Ottoman Empire was not yet prepared for war though it decided to keep the treaty secret.
The German warships Goben and Breslau, then in the Mediterranean were allowed to pass through the Dardanelles on the 10th August. The Ottoman flag was raised and it was announced that they had been purchased from Germany. The commander of the ships, Admiral Souchon was appointed to the Naval Command .
The Entente declared war on the Empire as a result of the naval operation: known as the "Black Sea incident" carried out by the Turkish Navy in the Black Sea.
The Ottoman Government actively entered the war after this declaration, on 11 November 1914.
The Allied fleet chasing the German warships blockaded the Dardanelles ,began bombarding the Turkish batteries at the entrance to the Straits on 3rd November 1914. This bombardment continued intermittently until 12th 1915.
On 18th March 1915, at the beginning of the Dardanelles campaign, the commander of the Allied fleet, Admiral de Robeck divided the fleet into three sections. The first section entered the straits at 10.30 am. and penetrated as far as the row of mines. The Intepe batteries started a heavy fire.
The Intepe, Erenkoy and Tengertepe batteries intensified their fire and a fierce bombardment continued for three hours. In the afternoon Admiral de Robeck withdrew his ships in the third section and threw forward six warships waiting in the rear. During the withdrawal, one of the ships hit a mine and sunk after a terrible explosion.
The naval battle continued in all its intensity for seven hours. In the face of the dogged resistance of the Turkish Straits Defense, Admiral de Robeck decided that nothing further could be done that day. During this operation three ships from the Allied Fleet had been sunk and three badly damaged. It was under these circumstances that Admiral de Robeck, at 17.30 brought the days' operation to a close with the order, "All ships, general withdrawal."
In spite of all the efforts in the Dardenelles from 19th February to 18th March nothing had been gained by the Allied Forces. Now, alongside the Naval bombardments and amphibious operation was under consideration in order to capture the peninsula.
The Anzac Corps, the 29th British Territorial Infantry Division, the 1st Royal Naval Infantry Division, the 29th Indian Infantry Brigade and the French 1st Infantry Division were to take part in this action. These forces were to be split into two groups, the first group was to seize the Seddulbahir area and open the Straits whilst the second was to land in the Kabatepe region, seize the Conkbayir area and obstruct the Turkish Forces moving down from the north.
The Commander of the Ottoman 5th Army had evaluated the defense of the Gallipoli peninsula as of secondary importance. Thus out of six divisions he allocated two divisions and one cavalry brigade to the defense of the Gulf of Saros, two divisions to the defense of the area between Anafartalar and Seddulbahir and the remaining two divisions to the defense of the Asian coast.
Of the two divisions deployed on the Gallipoli peninsula one was the 19th division which served as the Chief of Command Reserve Force in Bigali. The commander of this brigade was Mustafa Kemal.
At the beginning of the 1st WW, Staff Lieutenant Colonel Mustafa Kemal was Military Attaché in Sofia. Preferring to participate personally in the struggle of his county against invading super powers of the time, rather than watching from the sidelines, he requested active military duty from the Chief of Staff. Upon his insistence, he was appointed to the 19th Divisional Command founded in Tekirdag on 1st February 1915.
In less than one month, Mustafa Kemal had the division prepared for war. On 25th February, his division was at Eceabat and ready for combat.
The Seddulbahir Battles
At dawn on the 25th April, the Seddulbahir coast was seen to be surrounded by several ships and landing crafts.
At 5.30 am. a hellish fire was opened from the allied warships.
Bombardment from the sea held the tip of the peninsula under fire from three sides. The 29th British Infantry Division attempted to move into the land.
The defending forces broke the first wave of the invading forces with success. Then, with the reinforcements which were later brought in, the operation was extended on the land without much success.
The 1st., 2nd., and 3rd Battles of Kirte and Kerevizdere continued from 25th April until the end of May when it turned into chronic local clashes.
In June 1915 the battle again intensified and after the bloody Zigindere Battles which began on the 28th June continued for eight days.
The area chosen by the Anzac Corps as a landing area was the coast to the north of Kabatepe. However, the Anzacs had landed in the steep, inaccessible area of Ariburnu due to their boats having been carried by the strong current. First landing group consisted of 1500 men with the same number again in a following wave. The first target to be captured after the landing was the "Karacimen Bloc."
One of the battalions of the 27th regiment of the 9th Turkish Division in Ariburnu was guarding the coasts of the area. One company of the battalion had spread from the Ariburnu hills to Agildere. This company consisted squads; one on the Ariburnu hilltops, one in Balikcidamlari and one other in reserve on Haintepe.
The Anzac attack began at 4.30 on 25th April. They landed at Ariburnu in the form of a surprise attack. The defending squad opened fire on the invading forces, but the Anzacs advanced. The Turkish company defending the coast immediately reported the situation to 27 regimental Command to the west of Eceabat.
While the Regimental Commander was giving his report to the 9th Division, at the same time he informed the 19th Division. The 8th Company Commander brought up reinforcements to counter the first wave of attacks, however, the heavy losses caused by the intense cannon fire from the ships and the lack of ammunition led him to retreat.
Although Staff Lieutenant-Colonel Mustafa Kemal had sent reports to the army and the Corps Command at Gallipoli, he received no reply. Using his initiative he attacked the Anzacs. Reinforcing the 57th Regiment with a hill-top cannon battery, he advanced towards Ariburnu via KocaCimen. In a critical moment Mustafa Kemal gave the order for a company to rapidly reach the area and for the forward battalion to immediately enter the fray. With their arrival, the Turkish forces attained the initiative. The 57th Regiment completed their battle preparations by noon and moved southwards from Conkbayiri to the Anzac forces. This strike could not advance any further than Duztepe because of the effective cannon fire from the ships. He arrived at Korucakoy and reported the situation to the Army Headquarters. He met the commander of the 3rd corps at Maltepe from whom he received permission to deploy the entire 19th Division after explaining to him the situation. He moved those forces forward. Mustafa Kemal's decision, on the night of 25-26th April was to take the command of the 27th Regiment and to attack the Anzacs with two regiments from the south and two regiments from the north and to drive them that night at whatever cost into the sea. Same night the attack was deployed. Since the majority of the 27th Regiment which arrived from Aleppo was composed of aged soldiers, the action on the southern flank did not develop as hoped. The 57th and 72nd Regiments forced the Anzacs to retreat further south from the Cesarettepe hill-top. The Anzacs were in great difficulty to defend their positions with this latest assault. The allied commander decided to evacuate his forces into Hamilton.
Due to the lack of necessary vehicles, the evacuation move was suspended. Dig-in and defend order was given instead.
As time passed both sides were gradually reinforced. The 16th Division was rushed from Thrace and the 2nd Division from Istanbul. Fierce Anzac assaults on Ariburnu continued steadily and the fighting went on until the end of May. Finally, from the end of May onwards it turned into a French warfare.
The clashes of Seddulbahir and Ariburnu in June and July of 1915 were typical of stationary warfare. The opposing forces were extremely close to each other, indeed as close as eight meters on certain locations.
The Anafartalar Battles
General Hamilton, unable to achieve any success on the Seddulbahir and Ariburnu fronts in the past five months decided to open a third front in Anafartalar bay in order to encircle and destroy the Turkish Army from the rear. He assigned this task to the 9th British Corps.
The aim was to immediately seize the Conkbayiri and KocaCimen blocs, advance from there and take control of the Straits. During this landing limited action was to be taken in order to keep the Turkish forces in the Seddulbahir and Ariburnu regions pinned down.
British Army Corps began landing on the night of 6-7 August, to start the final attack against the Turkish troops aproximately on the 9th of August. They landed to the south of the Buyukkemikli and Kucukkemikli headlands. Due to the hot weather and exhaustion of the British soldiers, 9th corps spend a day on the beach front instead of moving to the target hills immediately. During this time two Ottoman divisions were transferred to the front with Mustafa Kemal as commander. One of these divisions pushed the 9th corps into the sea while the other one prevented the Anzacs to reach to the battle front.
The 12th Division attacked the 9th Corps front lines. The most critical point was over for the Turks. The 9th Corps, under the fire of the Turkish Forces, fell in great numbers on the beaches and were left totally ineffective. Eventhough the 9th Corps, that was later reinforced, attempted more flank attacks from Ismailoglu Hill to Anafartalar and from Mt. Karakol to Ece Harbour and Tekke Hill, they could not succeed.
The pinning-down and encircling action against the Northern Group was halted but some sections did come within 25 meters of the crest-line. The 9th Turkish Division, which had counter-attacked for two days in order to alleviate this dangerous situation was not able to achieve a success. Then, Liman Von Sanders, Commander of the 5th Ottoman Army reinforced the 8th Division with two regiments and put it under Mustafa Kemal's orders.
Colonel Mustafa Kemal arrived at the headquarters of the 8th Division, the night of 9-10th August and ordered his soldiers to attack using only bayonets at down on the 10th of August. The attack succeeded and even the British Brigade Commander was among the dead. Upon the seizure of the land that would guarantee the security of the defense line, the order to dig-in and defend was given. The British operation that had been carried out with strong attack groups in high hopes on Ariburnu and the landings at Anafartalar were paralyzed and as in the other regions were brought to a standstill.
Thus the allied forces clearly saw that no possibility remained either of breaking the Turkish defense in the Dardanelles or of achieving any result in the Gallipoli Campaign, above all of achieving their ambition of taking Istanbul. On 20th December 1915 they ordered the evacuation of Ariburnu-Anafartalar and on the 9th January 1916 Seddulbahir.
Over 33000 allied and 86000 Turkish troops died in the eight-month Gallipoli campaign which achieved none of its objectives. A British royal commission later concluded that the operation had been ill-conceived. Gallipoli cost 8700 Australian dead and 19000 wounded. Large numbers of the dead have no known grave. The story of Anzac has had an enduring effect on the way Australians see themselves. Though the campaign was a failure, Anzac has come to stand, in the words of the official historian, C.E.W. Bean, "for reckless valour in a good cause, for enterprise, recourcefulness, fidelity, comradeship and endurance".