Topic: The Story of Gallipoli in Brief (Yr. 9-13)

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The Story of Gallipoli in Brief for year 9 to 13 students was part of a teacher resource pack about World War I sent to the schools in the Tauranga area in 2015.

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In late October 1914, the Ottoman Empire entered the war on the side of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria. Ottoman forces were a threat to the Suez Canal – an important British shipping lane between Europe and Asia. British leaders decided to send the Australian and New Zealand expeditionary forces to Egypt to guard the canal. In February 1915, New Zealand soldiers helped fight off an Ottoman attack on the Suez Canal.

When the British and French forces, using their battleships, failed to defeat Turkish troops they decided to invade the Gallipoli Peninsula. The plan was to knock the Ottoman Empire out of the war. The Allies sent the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (MEF) to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula. New Zealanders and Australians made up nearly half of the MEF’s 75,000 troops; the rest were from Great Britain and Ireland, France, India and Newfoundland.

Led by Lieutenant-General Sir Ian Hamilton, the MEF launched its invasion of the Dardanelles on 25 April 1915. While British (and later French) troops made the main landing at Cape Helles on the southern tip of the peninsula, Lieutenant-General Sir William Birdwood’s Australian and New Zealand Army Corps – soon to become known as ANZAC – made an attack 20 km to the north at Gaba Tepe (Kabatepe). By mistake the Anzacs landed about 2km away from where they were supposed to. Instead of a flat stretch of coastline, they came ashore at Anzac Cove, a narrow beach overlooked by steep hills.

The landings never came close to achieving their goals. Although the Allies managed to gain a little ground, the fighting quickly became trench warfare, with the ANZACs just holding back Ottoman attacks. The troops endured heat, flies, not enough water and poor food. Many of the men quickly became sick.

Early in May 1915, the New Zealand Infantry Brigade was taken south to Helles, where it took part in an assault on the village of Krithia (now Alchiteppe) on 8 May. The attack was a complete disaster; the New Zealanders suffered more than 800 casualties and achieved nothing.

In August 1915, the Allies launched a major attack to try and break the deadlock. The plan was to capture the high ground overlooking the Anzac sector, the Sari Bair Range, while a British force landed further north at Suvla Bay. Major-General Sir Alexander Godley’s New Zealand and Australian Division played an important part in this offensive, with New Zealand troops capturing one of the hills, Chunuk Bair. This was as far as the Allies got; an Ottoman counter-attack forced the troops who had relieved the New Zealanders off Chunuk Bair, while the British failed to make any progress inland from Suvla.

After the Sari Bair offensive, the Allies tried to break through the Ottoman line north of Anzac Cove, which was now linked up with the beachhead at Suvla. New Zealanders were also involved in this fighting, participating in attacks at Hill 60 in late August that cost many lives.

Hill 60 turned out to be the last major Allied attack at Gallipoli. In mid-September 1915, the exhausted New Zealand Infantry and Mounted Rifles were briefly withdrawn to Lemnos to rest and receive reinforcements from Egypt. By the time the New Zealanders returned to Anzac Cove in November, the future of the campaign had been determined. Following the failure of the August offensive, the British government began questioning the value of persisting at Gallipoli, especially given the need for troops on the Western Front.

In October, the British replaced Hamilton as commander-in-chief of the MEF. His successor, Lieutenant-General Sir Charles Munro, quickly proposed evacuation. On 22 November the British decided to cut their losses and evacuate Suvla Bay and Anzac Cove. In contrast to earlier operations, planning moved quickly and efficiently. The evacuation of Anzac Cove began on 15 December, with 36,000 troops withdrawn over the following five nights. The last party left in the early hours of 20 December, the night of the last evacuation from Suvla. British and French forces remained at Helles until 8-9 January 1916.

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The Story of Gallipoli in Brief (Yr. 9-13)


Year:2015