Topic: BatzG - Anzac
The Battle of Anzac Cove
Gallipoli, 25 April 1915
Anzac Cove, the name given to the stretch of Turkish coastline on the west coast of' the Gallipoli Peninsula upon which the Australian & New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) made an invasion landing on 25 April 1915. The landing, and others by British and French forces further south, marked the start of an eight-month campaign aimed at seizing control of the Dardanelles, the 60-kilometre long strait connecting the Aegean Sea with the Sea of Marmara. Since this waterway was strategically of utmost importance as a naval route between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, and also for the defence of the Turkish capital at Constantinople, the Allied incursion was fiercely (and ultimately successfully) resisted by the Turks.
While the concept of the operation was sound, the Allies made the mistake of signalling their intention by using solely naval units to bombard the Turkish forts on the peninsula during February, then attempting to force the strait a month later. The latter effort failed disastrously, thus necessitating a military expedition. At the time of the preliminary bombardment the Dardanelles were only lightly held by two Turkish divisions, but by the time the landing forces arrived this number had risen to six compared to the five divisions of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force commanded by General Sir Ian Hamilton. Added to the loss of surprise, planning and other arrangements for the landings were mostly inept and inadequate.
The northern landing was assigned to the Anzacs under Lieut.-General Sir William Birdwood, whose force comprised the 1st Australian Division (Major-General William Bridges) and the New Zealand & Australian Division (Major-General Sir Alexander Godley). Once ashore, Birdwood's task was to press inland and sever the Turks' lines of communication with their forces further south. Bridges' division was ordered to land first, its objective being a sandy beach north of Gaba Tepe. When the flotilla of lighters and rowing boats began taking ashore the first wave of troops from the transport ships shortly after 4 a.m., however, unsuspected currents swept these craft nearly two kilometres northwards. The covering force was accordingly deposited on more difficult terrain on either side of the headland of Ari Burnu. While this greatly increased the difficulties of the landing, it actually meant the invaders encountered lighter resistance at first than would have been the case had they reached their designated beach.
[From: AWM G7432.a1s65 Gallipoli XXVI.9]
Four hours after the initial landing, a significant portion of the Australian division was safely ashore and the leading elements were pushing inland through dense scrub amid a maze of steep ridges and narrow gullies. Their advance was cut short when the local Turkish commander, Mustafa Kemal (later known as Kemal Attaturk), rallied his troops in time to seize the crucially important Chunuk Bair and Sari Bair ridges. The Australian failure to take these dominating heights on the first day meant that the beach-head gained was successfully contained by the enemy to a triangular area of about 160 hectares within a perimeter of less than two kilometres; a similar fate met the British landings at Cape Helles. Although both Bridges and Godley argued for the Anzac troops to be immediately re-embarked, this advice was refused. A prolonged siege followed, during which both sides struggled to gain advantage (see Baby 700). A general Turkish assault on 19 May, undertaken by four divisions totalling 42,000 men, resulted in 10,000 enemy casualties-roughly 3,000 of whom were killed.
Notwithstanding a second British landing aimed at expanding the original beach-head, undertaken in august at Suvla Bay six kilometres north of Anzac (see Lone Pine, The Nek and Hill 971), the stale mate continued. On 19-20 December the Allied garrison of Anzac and Suvla was evacuated without loss in a brilliantly executed secret operation, followed by that at Helles on 8 January 1916. The Gallipoli campaign had been a costly failure, claiming 180,000 casualties out of the 480,000 Allied troops committed to the fighting; no precise figure is available for the Turks, but their losses were probably about 220,000. Some 50,000 Australians served at Anzac, and of these more than 26,000 became casualties (some sources say 27,500) including nearly 8,000 killed or died of wounds or disease. In Australia, the experience of Anzac took on a powerful nationalist meaning from 1916, embodied ever since in annual commemoration of the landing anniversary as 'Anzac Day'.
Extracted from the book produced by Chris Coulthard-Clark, Where Australians Fought - The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1998, pp. 101-103.
Additional References cited by Chris Coulthard-Clark:
C.E.W. Bean, The Story of Anzac, Vol. I (1921) & Vol. 2 (1924), Sydney: Angus & Robertson.
John Robertson, (1990), Anzac and Empire, Melbourne: Hamlyn Australia.
Citation: The Battle of Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, 25 April 1915, Outline