The Battle of Gallipoli took place on the Turkish peninsula of Gallipoli in World War I, in 1915. A combined Allied operation was mounted in order to eventually capture the Ottoman capital of Constantinople. The attempt failed, and an estimated 500,000 soldiers were killed, divided about equally between the Allied forces and the Turkish army. The maybe most famous casualty was the brilliant young chemist Henry Moseley.
Russia, one of the Allied powers during the war, had problems with its supply routes over sea. The Baltic Sea was locked by the German navy, while the Black Sea’s only entrance was through the Bosporus, which was controlled by the Ottoman Empire.
By late 1914, the Western Front, in France and Belgium, had effectively become fixed. A new front was desperately needed. Also, the Allies hoped that an attack on the Ottomans would draw Bulgaria and Greece into the war on Allied side.
A first proposal to attack Turkey had already been suggested by a French minister in November 1914, but it was not supported. Later that month, navy officer Winston Churchill put forward his first plans for a naval attack on the Dardanelles. A plan for an attack and invasion of the Gallipoli peninsula was eventually approved by the British cabinet in January 1915.
On February 19, the first attack on the Dardanelles began when a large fleet of British and French vessels, including the British battleship Queen Elizabeth, bombarded Turkish artillery along the coast.
Although the attack was politically successful – Bulgaria stopped negotiations with Germany, Greece offered support, and Italy also seemed keen to enter the war on Allied side – the military effect was very small. Continued bombardments and landings on February 25 also proved unsuccessful.
A new attack was launched on March 18, targeted at the narrowest point of the Dardanelles, just a mile wide at that point. A massive fleet containing no less than 16 battleships was initially successful, eliminating many Turkish artillery batteries. However, at the end of the day, three ships had sunk (the British Ocean and Irresistible, and the French Bouvet), while many others were severely damaged, and the fleet was withdrawn.
After the failure of the naval attacks, it had become clear that ground troops were necessary to eliminate the Turkish mobile artillery. This would allow mine sweepers to clean out the waters for the larger vessels.
|Gallipoli casualties (compiled from various sources)|
|France ( estimated )||10,000||17,000||27,000|