22/6/1919 Kemal launches Turkey’s national resistance

In May the Turkish government sent Kemal, hero of the Gallipoli campaign, to oversee the demobilisation of Turkish troops, as required by Turkey’s armistice with the Allies. However Kemal has instead began to form a network of nationalist army officers who are determined to resist the partition of their country. Turkish nationalists are now resigned to the loss of the Ottoman Empire’s Arab lands, but they fear that the recent Greek and Italian landings in western Anatolia signal that the Allies are intent on dividing up the Turkish heartland, something that they find unconscionable.

As the British become aware of Kemal’s activities, they press the Turkish authorities in Constantinople to rein him in. Eventually the Sultan’s government gives in. Today Kemal receives an order to cease his activities and return to Constantinople. But Kemal does not obey. Instead he resigns from the Ottoman army and summons a congress of like-minded nationalists to assemble at Erzurum. In his determination to preserve the Turkish nation, Kemal is now in revolt against the Ottoman Empire.


Kemal and other nationalists (Wikipedia: Turkish National Movement)

19/5/1919 Rising nationalist sentiment in Turkey

The Greek landing at Smyrna has caused disquiet in Turkey. Following on from Italian landings elsewhere and indications that the Allies are planning to create independent Armenian and Kurd states, the occupation of Smyrna has led to fears that the Allies are intent on completely dismembering Turkey, not just detaching it from its empire in the Middle East. As a result, nationalist sentiment is now building throughout the country. This has led to the authorities in Constantinople halting the trials of those accused of massacring Armenians during the war.

Although Turkey was soundly defeated in the recent war, some are preparing to take up arms once more in defence of their country. One of these is General Mustafa Kemal, who became a national hero following his actions in the Gallipoli campaign. The Turkish government has sent Kemal to the Anatolian interior to oversee the demobilisation of Turkish forces in line with Allied demands. However, when he arrives today in Samsun he begins to make contact with other disaffected army officers, seeking out those who are willing to join him in a struggle for Turkish independence, even if it means pitting themselves against the Ottoman Sultan in occupied Constantinople.

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Mustafa Kemal arrives in Samsun (Sabah: Bandırma Vapuru)

24/7/1917 Lightning Force: Enver’s plan to recapture Baghdad #1917Live

In Aleppo today Enver Pasha, Turkey’s paramount leader, meets with senior military figures including Djemal Pasha, the Proconsul of Syria, and Kemal Pasha, whose star has been on the rise since the Turkish victory at Gallipoli. Enver has a big plan to reveal. He is forming a new army group to be called Yildirim (Lightning Force), combining formations commanded by Kemal and Halil Pasha with German units. The overall commander will be none other than Germany’s Falkenhayn, the former German commander in chief who recently presided over the conquest of Romania.

Yildirim’s mission is a simple one: the recapture of Baghdad. Enver hopes that by doing so Turkey’s prestige in the Middle East will be restored. His audience are more sceptical, fearing that it would be foolhardy for Turkey to launch an offensive in Mesopotamia when the British are threatening to advance into Palestine. And the Turkish officers do not relish the prospect of being commanded by Falkenhayn. The Turks are increasingly resentful of the perceived arrogance of their German allies and suspect that Falkenhayn will be cut from the same cloth as the various German officers they have had to deal with. But Enver is insistent and with Germany providing considerable financial and military resources to Yildirim they are able to call the tune.

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Enver and Djemal visiting Jerusalem last year (Wikipedia)

9/1/1916 Gallipoli: Turks count cost of victory as last Allied soldiers leave

Allied forces landed in Gallipoli last April in an attempt to clear a route through the Straits for a naval assault on Constantinople. The attack failed, with Allied troops finding themselves confined to tiny enclaves. An attempt to renew the offensive in August was another failure. After that the Allies decided to evacuate from Gallipoli. Troops were shipped from the northern enclaves of Anzac Cove and Suvla Bay before Christmas.

Now over two nights the last men have been taken from the southern enclave at Helles Point. The evacuation has proceeded without a hitch, for all that the Turks were watching for any sign of the men being withdrawn. Now as dawn breaks over the peninsula they rejoice to find that their enemies have gone. Cautiously occupying the British lines (perhaps losing some men to booby traps) they find a wealth of supplies that the invaders have left behind.

The resolute defence of the Turks has won a great victory, but at terrible cost. In the whole campaign they have lost some 86,500 men killed. The losses of the Allies are smaller but still considerable. Some 20,000 British army soldiers have died in Gallipoli (of whom many are from India) and some 10,000 French. 8,700 Australians met their end in this doomed enterprise and some 2,700 New Zealanders.

The campaign has ruined the reputation of its main architect, Britain’s Winston Churchill. A year ago he was a leading cabinet minister, now he is in the trenches commanding a battalion in France. On the Turkish side the campaign has transformed Colonel Mustafa Kemal into a national hero. Although the Turks were commanded by Germany’s Liman von Sanders, Kemal captured the Turkish imagination thanks to key interventions at the start of the battle and during the August offensive.

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Turkish soldiers (David Doughty; I particularly recommend this site to anyone who wants to see stunning illustrations of the campaign)

Mustafa Kemal (left) and other Turkish soldiers (Wikipedia)

10/8/1915 Chunuk Bair: the Turks counter-attack

The Allies are attempting to break out of the Anzac Cove enclave on the Gallipoli peninsula. British forces landed at Suvla Bay, to the north of the Cove, but their advances were blocked by Turkish troops and their own ineffectual commanders. From Anzac Cove itself soldiers from across the British Empire are trying to take the Sari Bair ridge that dominates their position. Fighting has not gone as well as hoped, but New Zealand troops have managed to take the Chunuk Bair peak, supported by Gurkhas and British units. If they can hold on here then maybe the Allies will be able to break out and march across the peninsula, eliminating the Turkish shore batteries and opening a route though the Hellespont to Constantinople for the British fleet. Then this whole bloody Gallipoli campaign will not have been for nothing.
But the Turks are not giving up Chunuk Bair without a fight. Today Mustafa Kemal leads a counterattack, attempting to overwhelm the enemy with massed infantry assaults. The guns of British ships offshore blast the Turks, but their assaults are unstoppable. At great cost the Turks overwhelm the defenders of Chunuk Bair, wiping out the units on the summit. Kemal leads the attacks in person; he is reputedly struck in the chest by an enemy bullet, but it glances off his pocket watch.

The Allies still hold positions further down the slope, but with the Turks back on Chunuk Bair in strength the battle is as good as over. The Suvla Bay landing has extended the Anzac Cove enclave but there is no prospect of a break out. The attempt to take Sari Bair has turned into another bloody stalemate. For the Allies, any chance of a victory in Gallipoli has passed. The August Offensive has failed.

The Allies have suffered 25,000 casualties since the 6th of August, the Turks 20,000.

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Diorama photos (Mustering the Troops: the Great War Exhibition Miniature Painting Project)

map (Mental Floss)

27/4/1915 Gallipoli: bloody stalemate

At the southern tip of the Gallipoli peninsula British and French forces manage to link up their beach heads and try to push north. They are blocked a few miles from the beaches and can make no further progress.
Further north it is the Turks who are attacking. Kemal is throwing every man he has against ANZAC Cove, hoping to drive the Australians and New Zealanders into the sea. The fighting is brutal and the ANZACs come close to collapse, but with the support of naval guns they are able to hold off the Turks.

Even if the beachheads are now secure, the prospect of a quick Allied victory now seems remote. The landings were made to put Turkish shore batteries out of action, allowing British and French warships to sail through the Dardanelles and on to Constantinople. But the Allies underestimated the tenacity of Turkish resistance. Gallipoli looks like becoming a long, grinding battle of attrition.

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Southern sector (Wikipedia)

Turkish attack on Anzac Cove (Australian Light Horse Studies Centre)

Mustafa Kemal and other Turkish soldiers

25/4/1915 Gallipoli: the Allies land but run into problems

Turkey’s control of the entrance into the Black Sea has cut Russia’s main trade route with its western Allies. This is a problem because Russia’s weak industrial base is unable to keep the army sufficiently supplied with the materiel it needs to fight this terrible war. Seizing control of the straits leading into the Black Sea would allow British industry to equip Russian armies. And a well equipped Russian army should be able to overwhelm the Germans and bring the war to a swift end, or so the optimistic thinking goes.

A combined Franco-British naval force attempted to push through the Dardanelles and on to Constantinople on the 13th of March. That attack failed because of Turkish minefields. Fire from shore batteries prevented British minesweepers from clearing a safe path.

Once the naval attack failed the Allies realised that they would have to invade the Gallipoli peninsula to seize the Turkish forts and allow their minesweepers to clear a way through the minefields. The Allies began to prepare a ground force to land on the peninsula. The Turks also realised that an invasion was likely and began to strengthen their defences.

Now at last the Allies are ready to attack. General Ian Hamilton commands a multinational force of British, Australian, New Zealand and French troops. The plan is simple enough. British forces are to land at the southern tip of the Gallipoli peninsula and march to destroy the Turkish positions on the western shore of the Hellespont. Australian and New Zealand units (grouped together as the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, known as ANZAC) will land further north and march across the peninsula to cut off the Turks in the south. The smaller French contingent will carry out diversionary operations.

Things do not go according to plan. Barbed wire and determined Turkish resistance mean that the Allies suffer terrible casualties and struggle to get off the beaches.

The Turkish forces in Gallipoli are commanded by the German general Otto Liman Von Sanders. His steady manner calms nerves and prevents a panic at the top. Further south, Colonel Mustafa Kemal commands the 19th Division near where the landings are taking place. When a Turkish regiment facing the Australians and New Zealanders reports that it is running low on ammunition and in danger of being overwhelmed, Kemal orders them forward. “I do not order you to fight,” he apparently says. “I order you to die.” The Turks fix bayonets and attack; they are wiped out almost to a man, but they succeed in delaying the enemy advance long enough for other Turkish troops to occupy the high ground and contain the enemy in what will become known as Anzac Cove.

By the end of the day both sides have suffered terrible casualties but the Allies have clearly failed in their objectives. They have two separated narrow beachheads from which they will only be able to advance with the greatest difficulty. It seems they have merely replicated the the stalemate of the Western Front here in Gallipoli. The situation is so desperate that some of Hamilton’s subordinate commanders petition him to order an evacuation. But the commander is confident that the worst part of the operation is over and that perseverance will lead to victory.


Gallipoli and western Turkey (“Anzac landings in Gallipoli”, from Australian genealogy website FindMyPast)

invasion map (New Zealand History)