The operation's greatest success was the evacuation.
January 9, 2016 5:54 PM   Subscribe

One hundred years ago, the last Allied day at Gallipoli. "The evacuation had been carried out brilliantly, of that there can be no doubt." (Peter Hart) After months of agonized fighting between forces from multiple nations, the Allies withdrew from Gallipoli, ending one of WWI's most remembered and discussed campaigns. One hundred years ago today the last British soldiers left the peninsula, leaving behind booby traps, animals dead and alive, material destroyed and as booty, and the victorious Turks.

"I hope our poor pals who lie all around us sleep soundly, and do not stir in discontent as we go filing away from them forever."
(many previously)
posted by doctornemo (15 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Of the modern battles I studied, Gallipoli is one of the few that evokes deep emotions, usually rage and that fatalitstic pride of the upper chin in the face of sheer madness.

I hated the British and the Germans more, I never want to see Americans fight to die in such a manner and I remember what I said about fatalism and the whole just as guilty routine.

Its makes you want to machine gun history.
And that's the real conundrum of explanation and reality, some Praxis just out of reach.
posted by clavdivs at 6:10 PM on January 9, 2016 [4 favorites]

Here's Sabaton if you feel like you need some metal to listen to while reading.
posted by Wolfdog at 6:30 PM on January 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

As an Aussie, Gallipolli is a fundamental part of the Australian mythos. I really dislike it. In some ways, it's the perfect anti-war totem. A wildly stupid campaign that could have succeeded in spite of itself but for the breath-taking incompetency of its leaders. A colossal waste of life for no reason at all, that was obvious from the outset.

Instead, the lionizing of it - I think of it, uncharitably, as "Bogan Mecca" - completely elides the stupidity of the whole thing, the rank exploitation of the lower class and the colonies, the utter disregard for their lives, in favour of the heavily-massaged-even-at-the-time PR push about 'mateship' and some other nebulous shit that apparently defines Australia (people in other countries don't have friends, hurrah!).

We should never have been there, for a plethora of reasons. This is rarely mentioned, and when it is, it's to add some kind of tragic honour to the whole, banal slaughter that is the reality.
posted by smoke at 6:38 PM on January 9, 2016 [18 favorites]

The drip rifle was invented by Lance Corporal W. C. Scurry of the 7th Battalion, AIF, with assistance from Private A. H. Lawrence. For the part he played in making the evacuation a success, Scurry was mentioned in dispatches, awarded the Distinguished Cconduct Medal, and promoted to sergeant.

How often can one man be credited with saving, what, 40,000 lives? (Assuming the British estimate of losses would have proven accurate.) It's pretty much this guy, a handful of innovative surgeons, and those Soviet ICBM operators who held their fire in the face of system malfunctions.
posted by tobascodagama at 6:52 PM on January 9, 2016 [6 favorites]

You can draw a line between Gallipoli and the founding of the Republic of Turkey. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was the hero of Gallipoli in the eyes of his countrymen, and he leveraged his fame and reputation through the Turkish War of Independence and the founding of the new republic.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:59 PM on January 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

Here is an NYT article with some more information about Keith Murdoch's opposition to the Gallipoli campaign.

Thank you Smoke, I share the same feelings. It was intensely stupid, but it's a sacred cow in Australia, you'll never hear someone publicly say exactly how dumb it was.

But here's the great thing: I live on the east coast of Australia, and I can get a kebab at any time of the day or night, from the hands of a Turkish immigrant. It's across the road from that sushi place, next to the Vietnamese restaurant (they make great pho). My German mate loves their felafel.
posted by adept256 at 7:10 PM on January 9, 2016 [4 favorites]

Papa brought up an aspect I never really considered so hat tip for that and to add to the thesis:

"In 1934 Atatürk made the following comments to the foreign combatants whom he had fought as his enemies only a few years before: “Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives… You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country, therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours… You, the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries to the war, wipe away your tears, your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”These words are engraved on a brass plate on the ANZAC Memorial in Queensland Province of Australia."
posted by clavdivs at 7:16 PM on January 9, 2016 [7 favorites]

i.e. IMO, such a statement is very interesting in as it leds credence to his time (34') and the "changes" in Europe.
posted by clavdivs at 7:20 PM on January 9, 2016


Ataturk was very magnanimous, and even corresponded with (I think?) Prime Minister Andrew Fisher for decades after Gallipoli. They became friends mates!
posted by adept256 at 7:24 PM on January 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

The other thing I do not like about its role in contemporary Australia is the unacknowledged racism that - like in so many nationalist things - hovers just underneath the Gallipolli discourse. Any spiritual "connection" to Gallipolli is largely self-driven in contemporary Australia, and race plays an ineluctable part in it, which people are always trying to evade with the whole "Johnnies and Mehmets" things.

This vision of what it means to be Australian is really only accessible, understandable, to white people. It harks back to an age when the epitome of Australian-ness was white, if not whiteness itself as epitome. Would Gallipoli be "Gallipoli" if it was Germans waiting at the top of the cliffs? I don't know. I have my doubts.

We love dead Turkish people in history; god fucking help any live Arab refugees today, though.

1915 Australia's vision of itself is both incompatible, and pathetically weaker than what being Australian means in 2015. Are we so starved for identity that we have to stake our flag in a failed military campaign? I find it inherently conservative, inherently racist, inherently backwards. I recognise I'm unusually vehement about this, and that reasonable people can disagree, but I find the naked hypocrisy and reflexive worship about it hits all my nationalism-hate buttons (this is certainly not an opinion I voice at parties, or anywhere outside my home, really. People get really het up about Gallipoli, and their right to be serious about it. And it is their right, to be fair).
posted by smoke at 7:45 PM on January 9, 2016 [6 favorites]

And how well I remember that terrible day
How our blood stained the sand and the water
And of how in that hell that they called Suvla Bay
We were butchered like lambs at the slaughter
Johnny Turk he was waiting, he'd primed himself well
He shower'd us with bullets, and he rained us with shell
And in five minutes flat, he'd blown us all to hell
Nearly blew us right back to Australia
Eric Bogle, "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda"
posted by kirkaracha at 10:56 PM on January 9, 2016 [5 favorites]

I like the Ataturk quote, but he may not have said it.
posted by dumbland at 11:13 PM on January 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Are we so starved for identity that we have to stake our flag in a failed military campaign?

The Gallipoli diggers, the best soldiers ever, betrayed by the bastard British.
Phar Lap, the best racehorse ever, posioned by the bastard Yanks.
Swagman, name unknown, driven to suicide by the bastard squattocracy. But undoubtedly the best swagman ever.

The Big Banana at Coffs Harbour. As yet unbetrayed.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:05 AM on January 10, 2016 [8 favorites]

There's a rather curious collision of British history that happens on those evacuation beaches at Gallipoli. Because part of the rearguard during the evacuation was a detachment from the South Lancashire Regiment.

The regiment had suffered horrendous casualties during the Anzac assault of the 6th - 8th August losing much of its senior officers. The responsibility for planning its role and leading it (and the rest of the rearguard) during the evacuation thus fell to the 32 year old East-End lawyer turned captain of 'B' Company, who'd missed the assault due to dysentery but had refused to be evacuated home and had returned from Malta to the front to resume command (where he'd since been wounded again in a second assault and again refused to be evacuated as he was worried about the lack of experienced officers he'd be leaving behind).

That night he carried out his role flawlessly throughout the evacuation and was the second last person off the beaches (the last being General Maude himself).

That captain was Clement Attlee. Future Labour Party leader and Churchill's Deputy Prime Minister and right hand man during the wartime coalition government.

Gallipoli itself, of course, was Churchill's big brainwave whilst First Lord of the Admiralty, and although in public Attlee always insisted that he felt it was lost because it hadn't been properly supported from the very start (rather than insisting that it shouldn't have happened at all), I bet there were some wonderfully awkward conversations at times there.

I doubt it's often that the architect of such a military fuck up has later found themselves so directly reliant on the political support of someone so personally involved in and affected by it. I've always felt it speaks volumes about Attlee just how unwavering he was in fully supporting Churchill through the bad times of WW2 as well as the good. Effectively Attlee ran the country during WW2 so that Churchill could focus on running the war.

(Something that didn't go un-noticed by the wider British public, of course. Attlee and Labour would shockingly beat Churchill and the Conservatives in the 1945 general election and create the NHS and the rest of the Welfare State.)
posted by garius at 3:49 AM on January 10, 2016 [19 favorites]

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