Courseworks

‘British failure at Gallipoli contributed to the collapse of Imperial Russia’

Gallipoli has previously been crudely blamed for the Russian Revolutions of 1917, like many critical events in history, there is always more than one event that triggers such action. This paper will examine the lead up to the battle of Gallipoli the main events that took place during this period, Britain’s part in the Gallipoli operation, the impact and consequences of the decisions made by British military in charge. It will also look at its involvement and by the nature of its decisions whether Britain had a part to play in the aforementioned revolutions.Britain and France were fully aware the importance of staying neutral with Turkey, in the event of any hostilities. Both were greatly distressed when two days before the outbreak of the First World War, Turkey formed an alliance with Germany against Russia, although Turkey was not committed to any military action. Britain could predict the disastrous affects this would have on Britain as grain was transported from Russia through the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles, which was under the Turkish Ottoman Empire. It also hindered the export of military arms and supplies from Britain to Russia, the Ottoman Empire had a history of repressive rule under the Hamid family, when in1877 Sultan Mohammed V Hamid took over the rule from his brother he was merely a figurehead for a more sinister youthful group of revolutionaries known as the ‘young Turks’, they run the country with just as much severity.Britain’s main concern was the possibility of Turkey entering the war, and at the time the British navy was positioned in Turkey, by September 1914, the British navel mission was withdrawn from Turkey. Unfortunately this lead to German command being extended to the Turkish navy, this was to have disastrous consequences when without permission of the Turkish government, the German commander of the Dardanelle fortifications closed the waterway, this was in direct contravention of international law of the time. Although there were some protestations from members of the Turkish government, Turkey was firmly on the German side. Development of the conflict against Russia increased around the 29th, 30th of October, Goeben, Breslave and other vessels, mainly Turkish but crewed mainly by Germans attacked Russian shore on the black sea coast. Britain, France and Russia joined together and issued an ultimatum to the Turkish government, this remained unanswered and forced official hostilities to begin on the 31st October 1914.The problem for Britain was that the trench lines run from the North sea to Switzerland, so it would be unlikely on the ‘western front’ for a swift decisive victory, Britain needed to relieve the pressure on Russia, this brought about the resurrection of the Dardanelle plan. This plan had been thought of before the outbreak of war between Lord Kitchener and Winston Churchill. One of the main problems of the original plan was the route through Greece; however King Constantine of Greece was related by marriage to the German Kaiser Wilhelm II, which led Constantine to become increasingly pro-German.The British war council which included one of the original mastermind’s of the Dardanelle plan Winston Churchill along with Lord Fisher, decided on a route initially considering a Greek landing on the Gallipoli peninsula, which was the key to the Dardanelles and the passage to the sea of Marmara to Constantinople, which leads out to the Black sea. This was not only to be a navel operation but was to be supported by a Franco-British landing on the Asiatic side, by the Dardanelles being forced by a squadron of old British battleships, Churchill saw these ships as expendable and outdated and fit for the cause because of this. Britain hoped for Greece, Bulgaria, Rumania and Italy to relinquish their neutrality and join a Balkan coalition against Turkey, allowing the passage for Russian ships through the Black sea on to the Mediterranean, to enable munitions to run between Russia and its western allies.There were concerns with the plans from Lord Fisher, he felt that Churchill was over stretching the navy, mainly that the Dardanelles would appropriate resources that were needed to fight the German fleet on the North Sea, he also argued that even though the older battleships were expandable, and their experience crews were most certainly not. Fisher eventually agreed and along with Lord Kitchener a British landing was agreed which included the British 29th division and the Australian and New Zealand divisions; command was given to Ian Hamilton an old colleague of Kitchener. Hamilton made changes from the start, most importantly the change of route from the ‘Constantinople expeditionary’ to the ‘Mediterranean expeditionary’ he believed the first was an obvious route and would be expected, he wanted an element of surprise for the attacks.On the 19th of February 1915, Vice Admiral Sackville Carden began his attack on the mouth of the Dardanelles; this was done by using twelve capital ships in three divisions. Carden was in HMS Queen Elizabeth and his deputy Vice Admiral Sir John de Robeck in HMS Vengeance. To enable them to silence the forts they would have to get in close, unfortunately bad weather prevented the operation from fully succeeding. De Robeck tried again on the 25th of February, by leading the fleet in a close quarter attack, it was a success the defences were overpowered, the Turkish and German garrisons withdrew and allied landing parties occupied on both sides of the Aegean sea at Kum Kale and Sedd-el-Bahr, destroying the gun positions. Cardon was very optimistic and reported that he hoped to be through to Constantinople in about two weeks, but this was not to be the case, when the Turks returned to oppose the landings, the allies were forced off the land and had to withdraw.Another major problem for the allies was the Howitzer batteries which proved to difficult to attain to be destroyed by navel gunfire, although not a major problem for the battle ships the main concern was for the minesweepers, whose task it was to clear the channel for the continuation of the allied plan. Seaplanes used as spotters to enable the fleets gunnery to range on the shore batteries, were constantly hindered by weather conditions, this prevented most of the time the beneficial use of these seaplanes. The mounting pressure caused from these delays and the insistence by Churchill to Carden for ‘urging haste in the operation’, resulted in Carden to suffer a nervous breakdown. De Robeck took command of the fleet, although there was a more suitably experienced Rear Admiral by the name of Rosslyn E. Wemyss, de Robeck took command; a questionable decision like many others made by the military during the Gallipoli operation.De Robeck made his first attack on the 18th March 1915, what was of great concern was his inconspicuous plan, when he led HMS Queen Elizabeth with the first wave up the channel towards Kephez minefield, he was in full view of the Turkish and German Artillery spotters, who could quite clearly see what was happening. The plan was to pound the forts at Kale and Kilid Bahr from a distance of approximately eight miles believing the forts would not be able to reply, this was not the case as the coasted and mobile batteries kept up a constant fire, damaging the structure of many of the ally battleships. There were three main waves to de Robecks assaults, the first involved four of his most powerful ships including the Queen Elizabeth, these were to pound forts at Chanak and to bombard Kilid Bahr, at midday after ninety minutes of action de Robeck signalled second wave to go in closer, this wave was made up by Guepratte’s French squadron, Guepratte led his squadron through the British line, this subjected the shore defences at the Narrows to an even fiercer bombardment. By early afternoon de Robeck advised the French to retire and introduced his third wave, unfortunately when the French retreated towards the Asiatic shore, they were subjected to unknown danger.On March 8th 1915 a Turkish mine expert Lieutenant Colonel Geehl had laid a line of twenty mines parallel to the Asiatic shore. One of the French fleet, Bouvet hit mine and within two minutes had disappeared with the loss of most of the crew. This did not deter de Robeck’s third wave, it continued its course of action, with the main Turkish guns silenced. There were more casualties to follow Bouvet, another ship (Irresistible) hit a mine, she attracted the attention of the Turkish gunners and her crew were taken off by a destroyer. De robeck had to abandon the mission, two very important battleships Irresistible and Ocean had not survived the battle, but it was not a total failure, the Turkish guns had been hit hard especially their heavier guns and they had expended more than half of their ammunition; although this would have been knowledge that would not have come to the attention of the allied commanders at the time. This could explain why they did not push for a renewed naval assault, if they had of pursued such a venture, the outcome could have been victorious for the Allies.It was decided by Ian Hamilton and de Robeck to change tactics, the whole operation changed from a navel to a military operation. The landings were thwart with problems right from the start, to begin with there was no supreme commander, military and navel forces remained under independent leadership, this caused much confusion an there was a clear lack of consistency within the operation. There was not enough background research and planning done into the area of the landings. Greek islands were to be used as bases, but the facilities on these islands were poor. Lemnos had a natural harbour but little capacity for disembarking troops and supplies, inadequate water supplies. The strategy used to disperse the troops was erratic, troops were disbanded over various Aegean islands, and the scattering of units around the Aegean made a concerted action impossible.The main aim of the landings was to occupy the entire tip of the Helles peninsula, extending to the North-east of Krithia and to take the vital high ground overlooking the beaches the landing was scheduled for the 25th April 1915. The Anzac Corps, the 29th British Territorial Infantry Division, the 1st Royal Naval Infantry Division, the 29th Indian Infantry Brigade and the French 1st Infantry Division were to take part in this action. These forces were to be split into two groups, the first group was to seize the Seddulbahir area and open the Straits whilst the second was to land in the Kabatepe region, seize the Conkbayir area and obstruct the Turkish Forces moving down from the north. Information soon reached the Turkish commander, Liman von Sanders, about the arrival of the 70,000 troops on the island. Sanders knew an attack was imminent and he began positioning his 84,000 troops along the coast where he expected the landings to take place.The attack that began on the 25th April, 1915 established two beachheads at Helles and Gaba Tepe. Another major landing took place at Sulva Bay on 6th August. However, attempts to sweep across the peninsula ended in failure. By the end of August the Allies had lost over 40,000 men. General Ian Hamilton asked for 95,000 more men, but although supported by Winston Churchill, Kitchener was unwilling to send more troops to the area. On 14th October, Hamilton was replaced by General Munro. After touring all three fronts Munro recommended withdrawal. Lord Kitchener, who arrived two weeks later, agreed that the 105,000 men should be evacuated. The operation began at Suvla Bay on 7th December. The last of the men left Helles on 9th January1916 about 480,000 Allied troops took part in the Gallipoli campaign. The British had 205,000 casualties (43,000 killed). There were more than 33,600 ANZAC losses (over one-third killed) and 47,000 French casualties (5,000 killed). Turkish casualties are estimated at 250,000 (65,000 killed).Russia experienced two revolutions in 1917 one in the February and the other in October, Russia at the time was not only suffering from starvation and disheartenment from treatment of its men in the First World War, it was also experiencing political upheaval. This upheaval was not an instant action but had been progressive since the lesser known revolution of 1905. The revolutions of 1917 would have taken place regardless of the outcome in Gallipoli, if munitions had of reached Russia sooner, they would have kerbed Russia’s hunger or gave ammunition to its soldiers, but it would not have taken away the feeling that time had come for tsarist rule to end and a political power that represented the people to begin.There were large no of casualties for all countries concerned, but for Britain Gallipoli was a major defeat, not only in the lives of the many British troops, but it also destroyed Britain’s reputation for navel supremacy. The people of Britain could not believe the defeat and the French navel commanders no longer trusted British navel intelligence. Gallipolis legacy is bitter sweet for the negative backlash against Britain for its lack of military leadership but here is a positive side for the Australian and New Zealand troops who had entered the war for the first time, their courageous fight and solidarity amongst its troops was tremendous and hence is celebrated on the 25th April every year and is known as ANZAC day. The British Gallipoli plan was seen by both politicians and military authorities of the time as being the only truly innovative strategic concepts of the entire war, unfortunately its allied commanders were less than innovative their lack of planning military tactics and the absence of competent leadership was the real essence behind the failure at Gallipoli.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top
x

Hi!
I'm Jamie!

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out