Tuesday 17 January 2012

Britain's 20 Worst Military Disasters 17 - Gallipoli

The attack on Turkey’s Gallipoli peninsula by Britain and France in 1915 was conceived as a way of getting round the bloody stalemate of the Western Front, which was devouring soldiers’ lives at an almost unimaginable rate.

The initial idea was for warships to breeze through the Dardanelles straits into the Sea of Marmara, threaten Constantinople and force Germany’s Turkish allies to pull out of the war, but as the navy failed to make progress, it was decided that a major land invasion would also be needed.

Suffering uninspired leadership and handicapped by extremely difficult terrain, this quickly degenerated into a murderous deadlock that looked disconcertingly similar to what was happening in Flanders.

After 11 months, with 38,000 British and British Empire troops killed, the invasion was abandoned.  It was feared that the withdrawal would entail heavy losses, but, in fact, this proved the most successful part of the operation.   A brilliant campaign of deception involving rifles firing automatically from deserted trenches, and noisy empty supply trucks running back and forth at night, enabled the pull-out to be made without any significant casualties.

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