The idea was simple enough: to reinforce their Russian allies, the British forces needed a sea port, and those on the Black Sea were much less well defended than those on the Baltic Sea. So it was decided by the British high command, prominent among them the First Lord of the Admiralty, one Winston Churchill, that it would be necessary to invade and hold the Dardanelles – the narrow straits between the Black Sea and the greater Mediterranean. Unfortunately, this mean invading Turkey, the seat of the Ottoman Empire, whose capital of Istanbul sat at the far end of the straits.
The invasion was seen primarily as a naval engagement, with British naval forces blockading the straits and its ports. A few land invasions were planned to capture key strategic points – forts and watchtowers – after initial resistance to the British navy proved stronger than intended.
The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) was at this point largely encamped in Egypt, making them conveniently close at hand to serve as an invasion force. On the morning of April 25, 1915, the ANZAC forces landed at what is now called Anzac Cove. Ottoman resistance again proved stronger than anticipated (it’s almost like the British high command was composed entirely of arrogant racists incapable of learning from experience or something), and although some land was held, it was eventually evacuated in January the following year, and the idea of capturing the Dardanelles was abandoned. Of course, before that point was reached, approximately 250,000 men on each side lost their lives in what was ultimately one of the most pointless military campaigns of the entire Twentieth Century.
As the first major engagement to be fought in by Australian forces, it is still commemorated today as Australia’s national day of remembrance, Anzac Day.
|And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda — Eric Bogle|