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"Gallipoli was not Churchill's great folly " Topic

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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP09 Jan 2017 10:05 p.m. PST

"Most remember Winston Churchill as foreseeing the Nazi threat, winning World War II and pronouncing the arrival of the Iron Curtain. Lesser known is his role in World War I where the Gallipoli campaign is regarded as the stain on an otherwise colossal record. The approaching centenary of World War I is a good time to set the record straight: Churchill was right to propose Gallipoli and right to oppose the withdrawal.

The great and worthy goal of the campaign has been obscured by its retelling in a myth of courage and futility that is only half true. Gallipoli was all about Russia…"
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bsrlee09 Jan 2017 10:24 p.m. PST

But if Gallipoli campaign wasn't such a monumental stuff up Churchill wouldn't have fought so hard to delay D Day in Normandy until everything was fully worked out and as polished as possible, so we may have had a debacle in 1944 instead.

Grelber10 Jan 2017 5:34 a.m. PST

Actually, Churchill did not spend the rest of the war on the Western Front. He commanded a battalion there for a while, but was back in the cabinet in time for the German offensives of 1918.

Is "cruelled" a real word?


Chuckaroobob10 Jan 2017 5:59 a.m. PST

I read somewhere that the Gallipoli campaign was the only original strategy of the entire war. Had it worked, perhaps the Russian Revolution could have been avoided.

If, if, if….

Wackmole9 Supporting Member of TMP10 Jan 2017 7:43 a.m. PST

Then he did again 1943 on Leros. Never invade somewhere unless you have the force to hold and advance.

Blutarski10 Jan 2017 8:08 a.m. PST

A fascination with grand geo-strategic ideas, however potentially advantageous, is useless without a practical sense of what is required to actually accomplish the intended goal. It is in this respect that Churchill demonstrated his flaw on repeated occasions. Rash impatience coupled with slapdash, off-the-cuff planning and preparation were his hallmarks: Coronel, the Dardanelles campaign (Gallipoli), Greece, the "soft underbelly" of Europe (WW2 Italian campaign).

Great politician.
Wonderful orator.
Insightful political thinker.
Amusing salon wit.
Passable painter.
BAD military leader.


SBminisguy10 Jan 2017 9:27 a.m. PST

The strategy behind the Gallipoli campaign was sound, but the execution was execrable…for example, the Commonwealth forces should have been landed immediately at broad and easy Suvla Bay instead of on the spine of the peninsula onto rocky, tiny beaches. I've visited the area, walked the battlefield…so much done wrong…

Personal logo piper909 Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member10 Jan 2017 2:50 p.m. PST

That's what I've often felt when reading about the battle -- could well have succeeded had the plan been executed properly, with more resolve, if a few changes had been made to things like landing zones, had the British not had such bad luck with mines or Ataturk's presence. In which case history would be applauding Churchill's brilliance and nerve. Nothing succeeds like success, in hindsight, right?

Supercilius Maximus Supporting Member of TMP11 Jan 2017 2:27 a.m. PST

Ataturk's presence was similar to Stark's at Bunker Hill it prevented a quick British win that would have likely brought a quicker end to the war.

Part of the problem, IMO, was that the Army and RN were so overstretched elsewhere that they didn't have senior officers who were still young and vigorous, but had enough relevant experience of modern warfare, to see the opportunities when they were there. The RN giving the game away by bombarding Turkish forts unnecessarily (and ineffectually) didn't help, either.

Gallipoli was a good, and potentially war-shortening, plan that was badly executed by the people on the ground. I disagree about D-Day, as Dieppe fulfilled the "lesson-learning" function for that, not Gallipoli.

monk2002uk11 Jan 2017 1:24 p.m. PST

The whole history of the war (and the preceding war in the same area only a few years before) taught that there was never going to be a win in this area. The frontage was too small and the Ottoman Army was always going to be able to react and seal off the landings before any reasonable exploitation could begin. It was not Ataturk who stopped the British. They had to stop themselves because a force of that size could not advance inland at an unlimited rate to an unlimited depth.

The Ottoman Army suffered many casualties trying to eject the Anglo-French forces but by the time of the evacuation, they were amassing super-heavy artillery. If the British had not pulled out then the second wave of counter-measures would have been very damaging.


Blutarski12 Jan 2017 5:41 a.m. PST

George S Patton wrote an interesting post-war analysis of the Gallipoli campaign. Worth reading IMO. It is worth noting that the Turkish forces were actually under senior command of Liman von Sanders; Kemal Pasha (Ataturk) was at that time a division commander under von Sanders. Patton states that a vigorous response by Kemal Pasha was actually instrumental in preventing the British/Australians from seizing the key terrain feature Hill 971.

Can be found @ the CARL digital library.


Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP12 Jan 2017 9:04 a.m. PST

Churchill's original plan did not include a land invasion. He was told by the army that they didn't have the resources. Then the army decided to get involved… Churchill always complained that the plan had been taken away from him… In some respects, it had been.

In the end, Churchill's plan was not what was implemented and what plans Churchill had made for the navy was badly fumbled.

Blutarski12 Jan 2017 8:37 p.m. PST

McLaddie Patton argues (based upon what appears to have been access to primary sources) that the decision to land the Army at Gallipoli was a direct consequence of the Navy's failure to force the Narrows. It was concluded that control of the coastline was the only means by which the forts could effectively be subdued and the minefields swept – i.e., the Navy no longer felt able to accomplish the intended goal on its own.


monk2002uk13 Jan 2017 11:39 p.m. PST

Patton's view of Kemal Pasha's intervention is only partially complete. A much better view of this part of the landings can be found in Chris Roberts' book 'The landing at Anzac: 1915'. Chris is a former officer from the Australian Army, who has studied the primary sources from both sides. His analysis of the ANZAC landings is brilliant. He shows quite clearly that Kemal Pasha achieved his success because the troops who landed failed to push forwards. The same problem happened in the other areas where the landings were essentially uncontested, compared with V Beach. Had the highly successful landing at X Beach, for example, been exploited fully then Kamal Pasha would have had to make a different choice potentially.

Kemal Pasha reported to his Ottoman commander. Liman von Sanders was in nominal charge, with his German command team serving like General Staff Officers in the German army i.e. providing a parallel command structure. Edward Erickson's books on Gallipoli provide a deeper insight into the workings of the German-Ottoman command structure and processes.


Blutarski15 Jan 2017 4:55 p.m. PST

Now back on line after house move.

Robert Patton agrees that the inland advance of the Australians was delayed due to confusion resulting from having been put ashore at a wrong landing place where the terrain features did not correspond to the overly meticulous orders in hand. Patton praises Mustafa Kemal for his quick grasp of the tactical threat and his moral courage in advancing and attacking on his own initiative.

Have not read Roberts or Erickson.


GreenLeader17 Jan 2017 8:20 p.m. PST

"Principally Aussies and Kiwis at first…"

Great to see the myth is being kept alive.

Chouan Inactive Member18 Jan 2017 2:16 a.m. PST

Indeed; some myths are unassailable, no matter how much the truth differs.

w4golf Inactive Member16 Feb 2017 2:53 p.m. PST

The execution of the naval part of the plan was slow, plodding, and only timidly sought anything resembling decisiveness. The original idea was a good one, the implementation of that idea a disaster.

KTravlos18 Feb 2017 12:22 p.m. PST

The problem was at the strategic level. The whole campaign had initially been suggested by the Russians, or at least Mcmeekin makes a good argument about that. The idea was that contemporaneously with the Gallipoli campaign the Russians would hit Constantinople/Istanbul from the Black Sea. The Russians decided not to do so after the start of operations, but still insisted the allies go on with theirs. Part of the planning also expected the participation of Greece in the war. But Greece went into political crisis over the question (National Schism).

When the Russians called off the Black Sea operations, the UK should had called off the landings. Instead it should had used the forces to occupy the Greek Agean islands and thus be a constant threat to Asia Minor forcing the Ottomans to peel forces off from the Caucasus and Mesopotamia (where the real key campaigns were going on). At least that is my thinking. Obviously with hindsight.

As Luttwak says, mistakes at the strategic level will require miracles to make up for at lower levels.

I do not think Churchill was a good politician. He was a good orator yes. And he was what the UK needed in 1940. But on a strategic level he always has seemed to me an amateur compared with the people he tangled with.

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