Hourly "in all that time," wrote John Masefield in his account Gallipoli, "[the soldier] has seen his friends blown to pieces at his side, or dismembered, or drowned, or driven mad, or stabbed, or sniped by some unseen stalker."
Masefield, later poet laureate, witnessed one of the bloodiest campaigns of the First World War. Gallipoli is known to history as a catastrophic fiasco of Allied planning. The centenary of the assault on the Turkish peninsula fell this week. There is a particularly poignant reason for commemorating it: The commitment made by Commonwealth partners.
Gallipoli has immense symbolic significance in Australia and New Zealand, where it is remembered on Anzac Day. It was only a few years since these nations had become independent states. Out of 74,000 Anzac troops at Gallipoli, some 10,000 were killed. About 25,000 British and 10,000 French servicemen also lost their lives. It was an appalling sacrifice in a campaign that failed to secure any material advantage for the Allies.
The aim of the campaign was to gain the Dardanelles straits, knock one of Germany's principal allies -- the Ottomans -- out of the war and control the supply line to Russia. The land assault was launched after the failure of a campaign to force the Dardanelles by sea power alone. It was ill conceived and poorly planned, above all because the Allies had little knowledge of the terrain.
The planners relied on guide books rather than proper maps. The landing places were steep and the beaches were narrow.
It was a campaign of huge losses and material deprivation (above all, a lack of water).
Gallipoli proved a formative influence in the emerging states of Australia and New Zealand.
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