19/5/1915 The Turks’ doomed assault on Anzac Cove

At Gallipoli the Allies hold two positions, one at the tip of the peninsula and another further up. The northern position is known as Anzac Cove, because of the Australian and New Zealand troops based there. The ANZAC forces were meant to advance across the peninsula, cutting off the Turks further south, but they have barely made it off the beach. They hold just a tiny enclave around the landing zone.

Now the Turks attack Anzac Cove in strength, hoping to drive the Allies into the sea. The attack begins in the early hours of the morning, with three divisions of Turkish troops (some 42,000 men) attacking against roughly 12,500 of the ANZACs. The Turks attack to the sound of bugles, martial music and the shouts of “Allah-u-akbar!”
But the attackers are charging to their doom. Thanks to aerial reconnaissance and observation from the ground, the ANZACs know the attack is coming and are lining their own trenches to meet it. The Turks attack without any supporting artillery or covering fire, leaving the Australians and New Zealanders free to climb out of their trenches to better fire at the onslaught.

The result is carnage. The Turks attack all day but never come close to breaking the ANZAC line. They suffer some 10,000 casualties, of which around 3,000 are killed. Over the course of the day the ANZACs fire nearly a million bullets. They lose just 160 dead and 468 wounded.

For the Australians and New Zealanders, the attack has the strange effect of humanising the enemy. When they had been attacking themselves, they had suffered terribly from the Turkish defenders; seeing the Turks suffering the same way engenders a feeling of common humanity, though it does nothing to stop them from butchering the enemy as they were previously butchered themselves.

So great is the suffering of the Turks that General William Birdwood, the British commander of the ANZAC, considers launching his own attack against the shattered enemy. But then he decides that to do so would probably leave his men open to the kind of destruction the enemy has suffered, so he lets things be.

image source:

Turkish attackers (Wikipedia)

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