Tuesday, June 17, 2014

04 Gallipoli

I continue my quick journey through some key events of the First World War.

The Turkish Ottoman Empire joined in the war on side of the Germans in late 1914. The Turks closed the straits of Constantinople, blocking access to Russia's Russia's Black Sea ports. Allied forces (French and British, and from the colonies of each of these) landed on the Gallipoli peninsula on the 25th of April 1915, intending to march overland to Constantinople and force open the straits so that Russia could be resupplied with the fruits of British and French industry. The Turks had performed badly in the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913 and the allies assumed that they would be able to easily defeat them.

The Turks had other ideas. Their army had greatly improved its capacity since 1913 and its soldiers proved resolute defenders of their homeland. The Turks were able to contain the allied beachheads and prevent any march on Constantinople. The straits remained closed and eventually, on the 9th of January 1916, the allies evacuated their expeditionary force. Both sides had suffered enormous casualties, from disease as well as from combat.

The allied failure at Gallipoli contributed to Russia's defeat. The fighting there also made the name of the local Turkish commander, Mustafa Kemal, who would go on to rule his country under the adopted title Ataturk, father of the Turks.

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