June 12, 2016|

Gallipoli – The Wickham Connection

The eight-month campaign which took place between 25 April 1915 – 9 January 1916 on the Gallipoli peninsula in the Ottoman Empire. It was one of the Allies’ great disasters of the Great War.

As the war began, fighting was primarily on two fronts – the Western and Eastern Fronts. In November 1914, Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, suggested creating another front in the Dardanelles. By forcing the Germans to split their army to support their Turkish allies, it was hoped to relieve the deadlock on the Western Front and, on the east, to open a supply route to Russia through the Dardanelles and the Black Sea.

The War Council approved Churchill’s plan, proposing a February start for the campaign, in the belief that the Turks would be an easy target and that minimal force would be needed to achieve success. On 19 February 1915, Admiral Carden, head of the British fleet anchored off the Dardanelles, attacked the Turkish positions. British, along with Australian and New Zealand Corps (ANZAC) troops, were put on standby in Egypt.

Initial successes were followed by difficulties in the heavily mined the waters of the Straits, the attack ground to a halt. Carden fell ill and was replaced by Rear-Admiral Robeck. Lieutenant-General Birdwood, commander of the ANZACs based in Egypt, requested military support for the navy, and General Sir Ian Hamilton, commander of the newly created Mediterranean Expeditionary Force left for the Dardanelles on 13 February, arriving 18 March and knowing little about the military situation on the ground. Also on 18 March, the fleet of 18 battleships supported by cruisers and destroyers, targeted the narrowest point of the Straits. In the ensuing battle, the Royal Navy suffered their worst naval disaster for over 100 years, with three British battleships sunk and three put out of action. The mine clearing trawlers had been ineffective and the Turks held the higher ground which was of great strategic importance. The army suggested that it should take over.

The War Council did not meet during this time, and no-one was given overall charge of the campaign. The army’s input into the Gallipoli campaign was a disaster. Hamilton decided on a landing at Gallipoli. Security at Hamilton’s headquarters was regarded as weak and the landing place was hardly a secret.

The landings began on 25 April 25 with the British landing at Cape Helles in the south. They were unopposed on three beaches, another landing was resisted but the Turks were defeated, but the landing at Sedd-el-Bahr was a disaster. The ANZACs landed north of Gaba Tepe on the west coast, an area that became known as “Anzac Cove”. Here they were faced with steep cliffs to climb to get off the small beach which quickly became very congested. The Turks pushed back the initial ANZAC move inland.

On 28 April, the first attack was mounted towards Achi Baba, the ridge dominating the southern part of the peninsula. Fatigue, however, brought the assault to a halt some kilometres short of the objective, near the village of Krithia. Turkish counter attacks followed but were repulsed and during the period 6-8 May, British and French Divisions, reinforced by ANZACs, carried out a renewed attack on Krithia, making some gains but suffering heavy casualties.

By May in Helles, the British had lost 20,000 of their 70,000 men. Six thousand had been killed. The medical facilities were completely overwhelmed by the casualties suffering from trench warfare, disease and the impact of the heat. Further attacks at Helles by the Allied force during June and early July did not achieve a breakthrough. By mid-July the advance at Helles was effectively over and the position remained unchanged until the evacuation in January 1916.

In the attack on Suvla Bay on 6 August, 63,000 Allied troops were landed. This time the secrecy behind the operation was so complete that even senior officers were unaware of what others were doing. Unfortunately, the troops landed at Sulva bay were unable to link up with the ANZACs , who had failed to break out of Anzac Cove. The British at Suvla were pushed back and, within a few days, the Turks had retaken Suvla Bay.

Opponents of the campaign had become louder and more numerous. Evacuation was recommended and was undertaken at Suvla Bay and Anzac Cove on 19/20 December, followed by Helles on 8/9 January 1916, with no further casualties. Despite this small success, the overall campaign was a disaster. Allied casualties exceeded 200,000, with many deaths from disease. It is thought that the Turkish casualty numbers were similar.

The following men with links to Wickham lost their lives in the Gallipoli Campaign:

HALL Soloman Private 10th Bn. Hampshire Regiment. [Brother of William Hall.]
Died 10/08/1915 Age 21.

HALL William Private Portsmouth Bn. R.N. Div. RM Light Infantry. [Brother of Soloman Hall.]
Died 06/05/1915. Age 24.

PRIVETT Ernest Edward Private Portsmouth Bn. R.N. Div., Royal Marine Light Infantry.
Died 10/07/1915. Age 18

SHEFFIELD Surtees Lieutenant 13th Bn. Hampshire Regiment.
Died 06/08/1915. Age 38.


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