By Mike Whitworth, Manchester Museum
By late 1914 it was already apparent that a decisive victory on the Western Front was very unlikely. The Gallipoli campaign was conceived as a means to break the deadlock. It was hoped that an offensive in the Dardanelles peninsula would allow a passage to be forced into the Black Sea, therefore opening supply route to Britain`s ally Russia. It would also relieve pressure from Turkey on Russia`s Southern front and possibly force Turkey to the negotiating table. The major advocate of the plan was a young Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty.
In February and March 1915 two attempts were made to force a passage through the narrow strait by a combined British and French fleet. Both failed due to the strong Turkish fortifications protecting the Dardanelles. It was decided, therefore, to land ground forces to capture the peninsula and so open the channel for the fleet. The initial forces available were the regular soldiers of the British 29th Division, Territorials of the 42nd East Lancashire Division, the Royal Navy Division and the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs).
On 25 April, the troops landed to stiff opposition. Despite heavy casualties, they established bridgeheads at Helles (British) and Gaba Tepe (ANZACs), but afterwards progress slowed. Fresh reinforcements including French, Indian and New Army (Pals) in May, June and August allowed further Allied offensives including a new landing at Sulva. Despite the bravery of the troops, failures in senior leadership, poor administration, and a lack of sufficient reinforcements combined with a strong and well-led opposition resulted in stagnation and trench warfare. Due to the failed offensives, General Hamilton was replaced by Lieutenant General Monro in October. With mounting casualties, deteriorating conditions and no opportunity to advance Monro took the decision to withdraw from the Peninsula. Even though there were substantial risks involved, the withdrawal was well planned and the troops were successfully evacuated by 9 January 1916.
The surviving units were reallocated to other fronts. The fighting at Gallipoli caused 213,000 Allied and 300,000 Turkish casualties. The campaign destroyed the career of its commander, General Sir Ian Hamilton, and stalled Winston Churchill’s political ambitions. It became a defining moment in Australian and New Zealand nationalism and had a huge impact in East Lancashire where so many of the units involved were raised. It was here that the regulars of the locally recruited 1st Lancashire Fusiliers won “Six V.Cs before breakfast” in their costly beach assault, and where the Terriers of the 1/7th Manchester Regiment made up of University staff, students and other local workers paid such a huge price in the four battles fought around the village of Krithia.