Part V : Evacuation and the
End of the Campaign
the battles of August 1915, fighting in Gallipoli took the form of
static trench warfare, where neither side could gain territory anymore.
The war on the peninsula was practically over, since the outcome was
apparently not to change and the Allies were not going to be able to
open the way to Istanbul for their navy. In the autumn of 1915, the only
thing the soldiers could do was to try to inflict as much casualties as
possible on each other.
end of September 1915, the total number of Turkish forces in Gallipoli
was 5,287 officers and 255,728 soldiers of which 158,363 were
combatants, supported by 230 pieces of artillery. The number of the
Allied combatants was nearly 120,000.
next month, in October 1915, there have been significant changes in the
positions of the units linked to the Fifth Army, of which the total
strength had gone up to 315,000 men by then. Meanwhile, Esat Paşa was
appointed as the commander of the First Army and Colonel Ali Rıza Bey
became the commander of the Northern Group.
important event that took place in September that year was Bulgaria’s
entry to the war on the side of the Central Powers. It meant that the
Berlin-Istanbul route was now open and supplies could be transferred
from Germany to Turkey and this was a great relief since the Turkish
efforts in Gallipoli have been suffering from serious shortages in
artillery and ammunition. An Austrian 240 mm mortar battery and a German
battery of 150 mm howitzers, a total of 8 guns, were brought to Turkey,
with the former being positioned at Kocaçimen and the latter at
Seddülbahir. Along with these batteries, several German and Austrian
technical specialists arrived as well.
in the assembly area
Although the bloodshed had slowed down, the Turkish General Staff was
cautious. Enver Paşa had received the intelligence that substantial
Italian forces were massing to reinforce the Allies in Gallipoli. Liman
Paşa was again thinking of the Saros Bay. He believed that a
simultaneous amphibious operation there and at the Asian side could be
fatal for the Turks.
receiving its medal with a ceremoty
the Italians nor the renewed landings came. The weather changed
dramatically on 26 November and for four days, heavy rain followed by
snow and frost spelled disaster on both sides. It was as if the Mother
Nature was taking revenge from the human beings who had turned that
piece of heaven into a bloody hell. Rain water filled in the trenches
and then snow made everything worse. Soldiers drowned in their trenches
or got frozen to death. Those in the open were the ones that were worst
hit. Allied casualties during these 4 disastrous days were 15,000 men
including 2,000 dead. 556 Turkish soldiers died and several thousands of
them fell seriously ill.
for casualties: Göncü and Aldoğan)
Evacuation in Great Secrecy
early November 1915, the Allied headquarters saw that further attempts
would be futile and decided to leave the peninsula. The campaign was a
failure and according to the plan the Arıburnu-Anafartalar sector was to
be evacuated completely, whereas British troops would remain in
Seddülbahir. The evacuation started in great secrecy and in what is
definitely their best performance in the whole campaign, the Allies
managed to prevent the Turks from realizing that they were going. During
the day, routine operations continued, artillery fire resumed; whereas
during the night, soldiers, armaments and ammunition were loaded in
evacuation of the Suvla Bay and the Arıburnu-Anafartalar sector was
completed on 20 December and thanks to both a great deal luck and a well
planned deception operation, not even a single Allied soldier has lost
its life. Allied soldiers tried to destroy whatever they could not take
with themselves, so that they could not be used by the Turks.
Turkish command was unaware of what was going on under their noses. In
his memoirs, General Liman von Sanders wrote: “Whatever the reason
for that was, we could not be aware of this evacuation attempt which was
well kept secret until the last second. Such as possibility was actually
thought of the Fifth Army and it was communicated to all of the
commanders. However the evacuation was executed so perfectly that even
in the Turkish front lines it has not been realized.”
few minor battles during November, Allies decided to leave Seddülbahir
as well. The French were already evacuating by then and on the first day
of the New Year, there were no more French troops left in Gallipoli.
person to leave the peninsula was Mustafa Kemal. He had left for
Istanbul a few days before the evacuation in Arıburnu-Anafartalar and he
was replaced by the commander of the V Corps, Fevzi Paşa. Meanwhile
Vehip Paşa left the command of the Southern Group and Cevat Paşa,
commander of the Çanakkale Fortified Zone was in charge.
Liman von Sanders ordered a last attack on the British that was executed
on 7 January 1916. Following a heavy bombardment of the Zığındere line,
the 34. Regiment attacked, but it was repulsed by the British. This was
the last act of hostilities in Gallipoli. Allied evacuation resumed
after this final battle and in the early hours of 9 January 1916 there
were no Allied troops left on Gallipoli peninsula.
inspecting the batteries
the shortcomings in logistics and supplies as well as the problems in
the command chain, the Turkish defence performed remarkably well in
Gallipoli. It was the common soldiers, Mehmetçik, who won in Gallipoli.
They knew the terrain and their physical resistance was much higher,
they were used to hardships, they knew it was their homeland they were
protecting and their officers never left them. Turkish officers
preferred to be on the line of fire with their men and to give them
courage, instead of giving directions and orders from safe command
posts. At the end of the day, it was them who wrote this epic with their
gained a victory in Gallipoli, although it came at a very high cost.
This victory renewed the confidence of Turkish leaders and commanders in
the ultimate victory of Turkey and the Central Powers in the World War.
However, as Erickson (2001) notes, the most significant result for the
Turkish Army was “the emergence of a combat-tested commanders with
proven abilities.” These commanders, Mustafa Kemal and his
comrades-in-arms, are the ones who later fought the War of Independence.
at Kanlısırt during the evacuation
Gallipoli campaign, which went on for 259 days, is unique in the sense
that such a large number of soldiers fought on such a narrow place.
of more than 1 million combatants from both sides fought in Gallipoli,
where the total length of the front line was just 20 kilometres (5 km in
Seddülbahir and 15 km in Arıburnu-Anafartalar). The distance between
trenches was in some cases no more than a few meters and the
no-man’s-land has never been narrower in other campaigns of the World
War. The enemy was always very close, there were always shrapnel falling
on one’s head, the soldiers had to be always alerted and ready for
bayonet charge and the weather was never kind, neither in summer nor in
winter. In 1915, Gallipoli was a hell.
other hand, the Gallipoli campaign is also called as the “Last
Gentlemen’s War”. Especially in the Arıburnu-Anafartalar sector, there
have been times when both sides, also benefiting of the proximity of the
trenches, threw food and cigarette to each other, with notes attached.
They respected their enemies and there were neither atrocities on
civilians nor “dirty warfare” such as chemical weapons in Gallipoli.
are still disputes about the number of casualties, especially the
Turkish ones. Liman von Sanders estimated 218,000 Turkish casualties
(66,000 dead), whereas according to official British accounts Turkish
casualties were 251,000 men. Göncü and Aldoğan (2006) uses the official
Turkish accounts and calculates the individual battles, arriving at
these initial numbers: 66,262 dead, 97,916 wounded, 2,000 taken
prisoner. The same work points out to the fact that more than 200,000
Turkish soldiers had to leave the battlefield due to wounds or illness
and 35,000 of them died later. Considering this fact, Göncü and Aldoğan
(2006) conclude that the most rational casualty figures are given by the
work of General Kemal Özbay, who states that Turkish casualties were
250,000, with 101,279 of them dead, “şehit” (martyr) as they are called
in Turkish. According to Göncü and Aldoğan (2006), Allied casualties
were 182,038 men, 62,086 of them dead, to which 90,000 men that had to
leave the battlefield due to wounds or illness have to be added.
Gallipoli did not change only the fate of the World War. It changed the
fate of a nation. It marked the end of an era and the beginning of a new
one that would led to the founding of the Republic of Turkey from the
ashes of a once mighty Empire.