Australian soldiers in the support trenches on Pope's Hill, just before the start of the August Offensive and their ill-fated charge on August 7, 1915. Courtesy of Australian War Memorial C02699
Australian soldiers in the support trenches on Pope's Hill, just before the start of the August Offensive and their ill-fated charge on August 7, 1915. Courtesy of Australian War Memorial C02699 Courtesy of Australian War Memor

The Gallipoli campaign: an eight-month failure

BY AUGUST, the Allies had been on the peninsula for more than three months and had little more than a toe-hold on the place.

Their positions were mostly on ridges that protected their beach head, and the Turks had kept them contained.

But the terrain was such that the Turks found it similarly difficult to advance.

In an effort to break the deadlock, the Allies launched what would be known as the August Offensive, a series of co-ordinated attacks whose main objective was to seize Hill 971 and Chunuk Bair, with a number of supporting assaults and a landing north at Suvla Bay.

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Again, the goal was to cut communications and supply to the southern part of the peninsula, to essentially starve the Ottoman troops out and aid the effort to capture the Kilid Bahr Plateau.

In practice, it would be a series of disasters.

The August Offensive started with two diversionary attacks on the afternoon of August 6 - a feint at Cape Helles to draw the Turks' attention away from the Anzac sector, and a larger attack by the 1st Australian Brigade at Lone Pine, with the intention of drawing troops away and stopping them from reinforcing the places that would later be under fire.

The Australians captured the Lone Pine trenches within half an hour, but four ugly days of intensive and costly hand-to-hand fighting followed.

Seven of Australia's nine Victoria Crosses from Gallipoli would be won there.

The following day, at 4.30am, the 3rd Light Horse Brigade attacked the Turks at The Nek, which co-ordinated with smaller attacks by the 1st Light Horse Brigade at Quinn's Post and Pope's Hill, just down the ridge.

These were supposed to connect with the main offensive by New Zealand and Indian troops further up the ridge at Chunuk Bair, but these soldiers had been delayed in the dark ravines and steep slopes leading up to it, meaning they could provide no linking support for the light horsemen.

But still the Light Horse charges went ahead, despite the preceding artillery shelling missing their Turkish trench targets and stopping earlier than planned.

This gave the Turks time to prepare.

They trained their machine guns on the light horsemen as soon as they got above the parapet, and four waves of men were cut down at close range before the commanders put a stop to the waste of life.

In less than half an hour, the brigade had suffered 372 casualties, more than 130 of them fatal.

It was a similar story at Quinn's Post and Pope's Hill - 154 casualties out of 200 men at Pope's Hill, and 49 out of the first wave of 50 at Quinn's, where they at least had the sense to call off further charges after that.

On August 8, the New Zealanders did capture Chunuk Bair in the face of strong Turkish counter-attacks, only to lose it two days later once the exhausted troops were relieved by British reinforcements.

The August Offensive was a failure - little ground had been gained and many men had been lost.

It was also the beginning of the end.

Hamilton was sacked as commander of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force on October 15, and in November, following a visit to the peninsula, British war minister Lord Kitchener recommended evacuation.

The evacuation was planned in large part by Australian brigadier-general Brudenell White, and it resulted in no loss of life and just two injuries.

By December 20, the Anzacs had gone - sailing away from the peninsula that had gouged deep scars but sparked the beginnings of a national legend.

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Turkey lost more than 500,000 men

IT IS often said Australia lost almost a whole generation of good men as a result of the losses in the First World War.

The same could be said for Turkey, especially its Muslim population.

At the time of the war, the Ottoman Empire had a population of about 21 million, of whom about 12.5 million were Turkish Muslims. The remainder was made up of other backgrounds including Armenians, Greeks and Jews.

But Ottoman law at the time offered exemptions from serving in war - principally those who paid taxes (generally Christians such as the Armenians and Greeks), as well as teachers and students of madrassas (Islamic religious schools).

Although conscription rules did change during the war, the impacts were overwhelmingly felt by the Turkish Muslim population.

More than 2.8 million Turks were mobilised for the First World War and the war of independence that followed, led by Mustafa Kemal.

Of that figure, more than 500,000 were killed and almost one million were wounded.

Kenan Celik remembers Anzac Cove

TURKISH historian and famed Gallipoli tour guide Kenan Celik remembers being at Anzac Cove in 1985 for the unveiling of the Ataturk tablet - which, in part, welcomes the Allied soldiers who died there as having "become our sons as well".

"There were maybe 100 people there," he recalls.

Mr Celik, who estimates he has read about 300 volumes on the campaign and probably knows the bumps and ridges of that land better than anyone, has watched the Anzac migration grow over the years, and with it the change in Turkish commemorations.

Prior to the 1990s, when the surge of Australians and New Zealand "pilgrims" really began, Turkey principally commemorated the days of March 18 and August 10 - remembering the defeat of the British navy before the Gallipoli landings, and the day troops led by Mustafa Kemal recaptured Chunuk Bair.

And even then, these commemorations were muted affairs, confined largely to areas local to the Gallipoli Peninsula.

But the increasing numbers travelling to Turkey to mark Anzac Day has led to more Turkish memorials being built throughout the Gallipoli Peninsula in the past three decades, and to the nation's own observances on April 25.

"The Turkish government started feeling a bit of guilt that people came from miles away to see (Gallipoli) and we did nothing," Mr Celik said.

Something else has happened over the years too.

While the cemeteries that dot the peninsula - 32 of them Allied cemeteries alone - are a constant reminder of the huge loss of life, Gallipoli has become more than just a place to mourn and pay respects.

"Now we see it not just as a place of conflict, but of reconciliation," Mr Celik said.

The casualty list

Casualties suffered during the entire Gallipoli campaign:

  • Australia: 8709 dead, 19441 wounded
  • New Zealand: 2701 dead, 4752 wounded (only 8556 soldiers in total)
  • Britain: 21,255 dead, 51,230 wounded
  • France: 10,000 dead, 17,000 wounded (estimates)
  • Turkey: 86,692 dead, 251,309 wounded


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