Gallipoli and the Anzacs

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Anzac timeline

Events of the Gallipoli Campaign

This timeline of events surrounding Gallipoli and the Anzacs focuses largely on the Australian perspective, providing key dates as well as glimpses of life at Gallipoli during the campaign.

Historic photo: Anzac Beach, Gallipoli. 1915
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Background to the campaign

By early 1915 with deadlock on the Western Front and the Russian army struggling in the east, First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill sought to strike at the Central Powers on a new front in south-eastern Europe, knock Turkey out of the war and open up a much needed relief route to Russia through the Dardanelles.

The campaign began with an attempt to force the Dardanelles by naval power alone but early bombardments on the coastal ports failed and on 18 March 1915, three Allied battleships were lost to Turkish mines. In light of this failure, General Sir Ian Hamilton was appointed to command a 70,000 strong Mediterranean Expeditionary Force which consisted of the British 29th Division, a Newfoundland battalion, Indian troops, two divisions of the new and untried Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC), a Royal Naval Division and a French colonial division.

Its mission was to seize the Gallipoli peninsula and clear the way for the Royal Navy to capture the Turkish capital of Constantinople (now Istanbul). The 29th Division under General Sir Aylmer Hunter-Weston was to land at Cape Helles and push inland to capture Achi Baba while Lieutenant General Sir William Birdwood commanding the Anzacs would land further north at Gaba Tepe and strike the Sari Bair heights.

The attack was launched on 25 April 1915 but a combination of unexpectedly hostile terrain and ferocious Turkish defence soon stopped any potential advance and the campaign degenerated into the familiar deadlock of trench warfare. The Turks clung grimly to the high ground while the Allies below found it difficult to dig trenches impervious to their constant shellfire. As the deadlock continued, disease caused by extreme heat and unsanitary conditions would prove almost as deadly as the Turkish fire.

In August, Hamilton, with his force doubled to eleven divisions, tried to break the deadlock with an assault on Suvla Bay, and diversionary attacks at Helles and at Anzac. At Lone Pine the Anzacs were successful but unable to hold their position and at Sari Bair (The Nek) the Australians were cut down as they advanced. Later in August, New Zealanders, Australians, British and Indian forces attempted to take Chunuk Bair but were eventually forced back. The final significant actions took place on 21 August at Hill 60 and Scimitar Hill.

In October, with the campaign stalled, Hamilton was relieved of command. He was replaced by Sir Charles Monro who immediately recommended the Allies should evacuate. This proved to be the most successful part of the entire operation. Anzac Cove and Suvla Bay were evacuated in December 1915 and the Helles area was emptied of troops by 9 January 1916.