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A Study on the Causes of the Failure of the British Gallipoli Campaign in 1915 -Focusing on the Imperialistic Prejudices of the British High Commandand the Reality of the Turkish Army-

Nae-Joo Lee 1

1육군사관학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

The essential purpose of the Gallipoli campaign was to capture Istanbul and thereby defeat Turkey, an ally of Germany. The strategy was initiated by First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill and soon accepted by Secretary of State for War Lord Kitchener. Initially, an attempt was made to force a way by sea alone through the narrow Dardanelles Straits. The navy bombardment of the Narrows’ defences was unsuccessful and ceased on 18 March 1915. Meanwhile plans developed to support the navy with landing force. On 25 April 1915 men of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force under the command of General Sir Ian Hamilton landed on the Gallipoli peninsula. The main thrust of the attack focused on five points -- beaches named S, V, W, X and Y -- along the tip of the peninsula, Cape Helles. The 29th Division of the British army carried out these landings with the support of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzac). Unfortunately, however, they did not lead to decisive gains or the passage of the fleet through the Dardanelles, and several months of intensive trench warfare issued. On 6 August an attempt to break the deadlock was made by landing fresh forces at Suvla Bay while forces simultaneously tried to break out from Anzac. This new attack was not successful. Hamilton was removed from his command on 15 October and General Sir Charles Monro, who replaced Hamilton, soon recommanded the evacuation from the peninsula. After several months’ consideration, the final decision was made and the evacuation took place in two stages on 18-19 December and 8-9 January 1916. The campaign ended as a disastrous defeat of the British military forces. The controversy on the reasons of the failure was initiated by the appointment of a royal commission in August 1916 to find out why the campaign ended up as failure. The Dardanelles commission sat in nearly over a year and produced two reports on the campaign. The reports criticized the role of three leading figures - Winston Churchill, Lord Kitchener and Ian Hamilton - who were responsible for the campaign. In sum, Churchill hastily organized the campaign, Kitchener did not adequately provide the military resources which the Expeditionary Forces required, and Hamilton commanded his junior generals with too laissez-faire leadership. However, in my opinion the most important reason of the defeat was those three figures’ erroneous attitude toward the enemy, the army of the Ottoman Empire. In other words, they commonly had some arrogant tendencies, the so-called ‘imperialistic Orientalism’ toward the Ottoman empire, which underestimated the military capability of the Ottoman army.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.

This paper was written with support from the National Research Foundation of Korea.