"D--- the Dardanelles! They will be our grave!"-Lord Fisher

The Dardanelles

external image MapB1915-Dardanelles.GIF
In 1915, Britain and France decided to open a new front in the Dardanelles, which is what people call the strait in the Aegean sea leading toward the sea of Marmara. Turkey, which was with Germany and Austria in the war at the time, would not be pleased. If the offensive succeeded, Britain and France would be able to invade Constantinople, the capital of Turkey. This would pretty much take Turkey out of the war. While the Dardanelles offensive happened, other troops would be landed and attack up the Gallipoli peninsula, taking forts that could possibly fire on boats coming up the Dardanelles. In the end, the British and French put together an assault force of
  • 12 British and 4 French battleships
  • 14 British and 6 French destroyers
  • An assortment of cruisers
  • 35 fishing trawls, which would be used to sweep for mines

Probably a reason this campaign was such a tough one was that the Russians didn't contribute anything to the attack. This was because they wanted Constantinople for themselves, and were worried their allies might take it for themselves. What would have happened if the Russians had put aside their fears and helped? Who knows!

The Beginning

The beginning was slow, due to the fact that politicians were having second thoughts, so the admirals of the fleet, Carden and De Robeck, just sat there a bit. During this time, Carden had a nervous breakdown, leaving all his troops to De Robeck. The rest of the wait was due to mines, which had to be cleared before moving on with the offensive. However, after clearing all the mines needed, a small Turkish minelaying ship managed to slip past the guards and lay mines where they were already supposedly cleared, leaving a nasty surprise for the ships coming their way. A day later, De Robeck entered the strait. His aim was to destroy the only guns capable of destroying his ship. These guns were located in the Narrows, a part of the strait only a mile side to side. De Robeck stopped just far enough away to make the ship-destroying guns ineffective, and sent blast after blast of explosives into the fort. Then he sent the four French battleships out to face the fort and both fired at each other for a long time. Then, as the battleships were withdrawing, one suddenly blew up, courtesy of the unknown mines. Soon after, a British ship also exploded, and minetrawlers that were sent out came under fire by Howitzers from the hills. Then two more British ships were hit. It was a disaster! De Robeck, however, got replacements: five new battleships to compensate for the four that blew up. De Robeck had decided now the it would be a good idea to have an army land along the Gallipoli peninsula, as he believed, "It is less likely the Dardanelles will be forced by battleships than at one time seemed possible." However, if De Robeck had simply returned to the strait straight away, he would have found that the Turkish and German forces had dangerously low ammunition, and they had no more mines. However, instead De Robeck started the Gallipoli offensive.

The Middle

On the Gallipoli peninsula, the advantage was height. The heights on Gallipoli controlled everything around it, including the Dardenelles, Constantinople, and the peninsula itself. The British and French wanted to take these heights from the Turkish and German forces guarding them, and then use them to crush Constantinople and the Dardanelles. The Turks, however, were preparing defenses. Otto Limon van Sanders, who was given the task of saving the peninsula, after seeing the sorry state of his army, said, "If the English will leave me alone for eight days!" Amazingly, the English allowed him four weeks due to the fact that their own attack force was as confused as the Turkish defense. The English had to transport everything back across the Mediterrainian, unload, reload, and come back. So Sanders put together defenses, and when the attack came, he was well enough defended. However, the invasion still should have easily succeded: Sanders had deployed a lot of his troops to positions where the enemy wasn't landing, and the British and French forces outnumbered the Turkish forces by a lot. Amazingly, at every single beachhead, the troops were not getting orders from De Robeck. They sat around, giving Sanders time to deploy his troops to stop the attacks. Then the French and British were dealt with. In two cases, the British dug in and waited for an attack that would never come. In three cases, the British were forced off the beachhead, believing they were facing the main concentration of Turkish troops, when really it was a pathetically small force that couldn't do much. In another three cases they sat around doing nothing waiting for the Turks to come get them. There were battles, but most of them were won by the Turks at great cost, usually leaving the Turkish forces depleted and the much larger British forces running. One particulary great attack was when Mustafa Kemal, a Turkish commander, charged an area that was well-protected by the British with these words to his men: "I do not order you to attack, I order you to die." Kemal was making a name for himself in Gallipoli, that is for sure.

The End

A final attack, the landing of a mass of troops on Gallipoli went extremely well: the troops made it without a scratch. However, as before, the troops were given no orders. What they should have done is headed for Tekke Tepe Ridge, a plateau that controls almost all of Gallipoli with its heights. However, when the troops finally did that, they did it in darkness, having wasted the day. It took a while, but finally they reached the last part of the climb.....and were promptly attacked by good old Mustafa Kemal and his troops, coming down the hill. Kemal hit those troops like a wrecking ball, sending them back down the hill. Chunuk Bair, another commanding high point, was also attacked and taken by Kemal. After about two days of fighting, the situation calmed down, leaving the Turks in posession of all the high points of value. After this, there were very anticlimatic attacks made, which resulted in disaster for the attackers. Finally, the troops on Gallipoli were ordered to to pull back. They were loaded up on ships and taken to another fight. Strangely, the Turks didn't attack during this long process. They seemed to be sick of war. At that time, everyone was. With three years left to go, everyone would just get sicker.