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Gallipoli


rvsakhadeo

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From what I have read in Alan Moorehead's book long ago and general histories of war,

Gen. Hamilton turned away supply ships back to Alexandria because the contents were packed in wrong order! If true,it shows a beaurocratic side to his persona,not acceptable in a military commander on a battlefield.Moreover he is said to have continued steaming around the coast in his ship,without getting down on the beaches and finding out things for himself.Another undesirable trait. Any comments from anyone? Incidentally what were the wrongly packed goods? Gen Hamilton appears to me a very intelligent person but was he fit to lead an army formation in such a hot sector?

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rvsakhadeo, the "ships carrying wrong mix of stuff" question is not one of bureaucracy nor was it Hamilton's fault. Especially given limited manpower and space for storage, the last thing a commander needs is, for example, all his ammunition arriving but no guns to fire them. The return of ships to Egypt for re-loading into what today's army would recognise as "battle packs" was an entirely correct decision in my view, although clearly it was a d*mned nuisance for all concerned.

The "finding out for yourself" question is also very debatable. That is what a commander's chief of staff and his staff and the echelons of formation and unit commanders and their staffs are for.

I can't say I care much for Hamilton as a commander but, as the official enquiry later admitted, he was given no chance of success. Loading the boats in more sensible way in England might have helped, for instance.

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There is a foot note on page 93 of the British Official History which explains thus

"The Royal Naval Division had to go to Port Said to be re-sorted before it could be used in an opposed landing, and the same remark would have applied to the 29th Division had it been embarked three weeks earlier. When the troops left England the embarkation authorities were not informed that they might possibly be used in opposed landings, and they were shipped with a view to disembarkation in a friendly harbour."

In short, the RND left Avonmouth before the plans were finalized

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When the troops left England the embarkation authorities were not informed that they might possibly be used in opposed landings, and they were shipped with a view to disembarkation in a friendly harbour."

Which is consistent with the original plan of a naval breakthrough followed by occupation by the troops landing unopposed. It wasn't that they left before the plans were finalized so much as the plan was changed (radically) after they left.

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IIRC Hamilton did not believe that the campaign would be successful, based on the previous Naval actions, the resources available and the preparedness of the defences. He said as much in a letter to his wife.

He accepted the command as a duty as he felt that was what he should do.

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IIRC Hamilton did not believe that the campaign would be successful, based on the previous Naval actions, the resources available and the preparedness of the defences. He said as much in a letter to his wife.

He accepted the command as a duty as he felt that was what he should do.

But did he tell his superiors as well as his wife? It may be a soldier's duty to obey orders but in Hamilton's situation it was equally his duty to ensure that his doubts were made known to his superiors.

In any case even if the task was achievable it was certainly doomed if its commander believed it to be so so. If Hamilton had expressed his doubts whoever persisted in pressing the command upon him was at least equally culpable.

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Expanded as I should have done.

But, at that time, would anyone have listened and taken appropriate action?

If they had listened he would probably have been dismissed and the command given to somebody else.

IIRC Hamilton also felt that given the circumstances he was the best man for the job.

Agree with your second point.

I do think that Hamilton was a victim of the circumstances and attitudes prevailing at the time.

When Kithcener sent Monro IIRC, and then went out himself, they saw that Hamilton was right all along.

It is a great pity that so many had to die in the meantime.

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But did he tell his superiors as well as his wife? It may be a soldier's duty to obey orders but in Hamilton's situation it was equally his duty to ensure that his doubts were made known to his superiors.

In any case even if the task was achievable it was certainly doomed if its commander believed it to be so so. If Hamilton had expressed his doubts whoever persisted in pressing the command upon him was at least equally culpable.

I feel that is a view which could only be taken in hindsight. A soldier's duty is to do the job and complain afterwards. It is the job of the CiC to decide what is to be done and who ought to do it. Hamilton's job was to do what he was told to the best of his ability. HM Government had committees to decide what was to be done, how best to prosecute the war etc. Once the decision was taken and the task apportioned, to express doubts would not be well received. It would smell of defeatism, a lack of commitment. Throughout the war, many senior officers were ' degommed' for failing to be positive enough in their commitment.

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Any organisation that only communicates top down is likely to be extremely ineffective, this applies to armies. The CiC should decide but one would expect him to listen to any views from his experienced commanders. To commit to a major offensive campaign unaware that the man you have appointed to command it considers it doomed to fail is not only inept - its criminal.

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Once the decision was taken and the task apportioned, to express doubts would not be well received. It would smell of defeatism, a lack of commitment. Throughout the war, many senior officers were ' degommed' for failing to be positive enough in their commitment.

Two points

1. I understand that Hamilton was involved in the decision that a landing was necessary

2. What was more important - his career or the lives of those under his command and the successful prosecution of the war?

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I always think of the case of the japanese mortars. They arrived by ship but with no prospect of ammuniton, spares etc. They were sent back as useless unless someone could match them with the ammo etc and get them all to the same place at the same time. Then the ammo arrived but that was all. eventually someone put everyone together, delivered everything and they went into action proving fairly useful. I guess it was easier for someone back "at base" (Alexandria or Mudros) " to sort it out rather than a harrased supplies man under periodic shellfire.

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To slightly expand the topic,apart from incorrect loading of supplies, basically the campaign appears to be misconceived right from the beginning(with the advantage of hindsight and a comfortable distance of 92 years and thousands of miles)- a project of Mr.Churchill a highly influential amateur being first sea lord etc.-

rather than being conceived by the Imperial General Staff.Just shows that in the first years of the war,there was not much strategic thinking.Mr Churchill again went on meddling with his Mediteranian Strategy in the WW II,but ,of course that is not the topic of this forum.

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With respect to the opinions of all, IMHO the concept of a Naval action supported by a landing with the eventual aim of capturing Constantinople and taking Turkey out of the war was not ill conceived.

The planning and execution of both the Navy's and the Army's actions was.

The reasons for this are many and varied but the scale of the task was apparently under estimated and there was no experience or specialised equipment in either of the services for planning, implementing and resupplying a large, opposed amphibious landing.

With the benefit of hindsight, it is of no surprise that it failed.

At the time however, things were viewed differently for many differing reasons; not all of them seem entirely sensible 92 years on.

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I agree with Squirrel in that the strategy of applying pressure on the Black Sea area, threatening the capital of a smaller enemy and hopefully freeing a trade route to a major ally was highly commendable. Originally a naval action, it necessarily involved WSC as the government's representative at the Admiralty. Part of the reason for the naval failure may have been the lack of a naval equivalent of a General Staff. The Royal Navy, it has to be said, did not perform well in the war. There were failings at many levels and in several areas. Once it was accepted that there had to be an army contingent to actually occupy captured Tukish land assets, there was no adequate command structure put in place to supply the necessary co-ordination between the naval and land forces. Books have been written and many more will be added as to the failures in the Gallipoli campaign, There was very little to be proud of except the way the men of the Army and Navy actually fought . There were command failures at every level. You know you are looking at a terrible failure when the best that can be said is how we managed to creep away in the night with a minimum of casualties." Not with a bang but with a whimper ", might have been written about the end of this tragic campaign.

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quote: I understand that Hamilton was involved in the decision that a landing was necessary

I can recollect no evidence for this

Hamilton commenced the war as C in C, Home Forces and as Tom has hinted above, the decision to move on the Dardanelles/Gallipoli was a political one made by a cabinet sub-committee, the War Council.

At the end of the first week of February 1915 the first British troops (the RND) were sent off to the eastern Mediterranean.

Ten days later the War Council agreed to also send there the 29th Division,

however Kitchener held this up for a further month

And it was only at this time, mid-March, that Hamilton was appointed to command the MEF

You will find Hamilton's biography by John Lee, 'A Soldier's Life,' a useful read

and I think that his own 'Gallipoli Diary' is freely available on the web

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The Stationery Office published two paperbacks. The Dardanelles, parts 1 & 2. These are extracts from the archives and cover the first ideas right through to the official inquiry into the failure. Part 1 is subtitled, " Lord Kitchener and Winston Churchill: 1914-15." Part two is subtitled, " Defeat at Gallipoli: 1915-16". Well worth reading for background and the politics. A marvellous example of an inquiry which was desperate not to lay the blame on the culpable but couldn't help it. Some marvellous gems. An Admiral at a planning meeting disagreed with the decisions arrived at. Asked at the enquiry why he had not pointed out the errors, he replied that he could only speak if he was asked a direct question. Yards and yards of this buck-passing , ducking and diving. Churchill resigned from the cabinet and was given a battallion in Flanders. He was expecting a division but Haig didn't trust his military abilities. Kitchener was already being sidetracked when he was sent off on a goodwill tour of Russia and was lost at sea.

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Well said, Squirrel and michaeldr.

When viewing Gallipoli, we must remember that it was a part of a World War, a new concept. Viewing the successful prosecution of the war in global terms, the decision to act at Gallipoli made a lot of sense. Unfortunately, it appears that some (perhaps many) in the UK and France didn't see things that way. Palmer's 'Gardeners of Salonika' is, primarily, a political history, and, as such, gives a clear view of the decision making that went on with regard to where the war would be fought, with what troops and with what materiel. The terms "Easterner" and "Westerner" refer to political and military leaders who favored actions in the Gallipoli/Egypt/Mesopotamia/Africa areas (Easterners) vs. those who felt that all efforts should be directed at the Germans in France & Flanders (Westerners). Those debates raged on until 1918! And, depending on who was most persuasive, men and materiel (and the best commanders) got sent to wherever the powers that were felt would be the best place to send them (at the moment).

Gallipoli was a brilliant idea that would have had a profound impact on the world then and now, had it been successfully (and rapidly) prosecuted. It is, however, a very complex issue. What if Kitchener and the people in Britain knew something of the terrain - remember K's surprise in November when he actually saw the terrain they were working on? What of Maxwell's refusal to cooperate in the beginning forcing the troops into wooden boats when K-Boats were available in Egypt? What if Greece's rather self serving offer to send troops in 1915 had been achieved? Greece was a question mark until 1917 or 1918 IIRC. What if Hamilton's original request for specific General Officers had been granted for the Suvla Bay landings? What if there had been sufficient troops to exploit early successes? What if Hamilton had been allowed to collect a planning staff when the plans were first hatched and not en route and in situ? What if there had been even minimal censorship in the Egyptian newspapers and adequate counter-intelligence there during the build-up?

Reading Hamilton's 'Gallipoli Diary' gives some idea of the efforts he made to rectify the supply and command situation and his agony and frustration at those failures. He might be faulted for not supervising his subordinate generals more closely, but should he have had to? Why was the very tricky action of the landing at Suvla Bay given to a retired general who was not up to it? And new divisions put ashore with little or no direction. Anyone who read the article in 'The Gallipolian' that Commander Hamilton and I wrote will see that the plan was available to some. That the mountain batteries got to Hill 10 that first day demonstrated that they knew where they were supposed to be. The ANZACS certainly can't be faulted for their actions that day other than attempting to move in unfamiliar and very difficult terrain without guides who were reliable and in place. They made great gains and followed the plan well. Even the diversionary attack in the south went off.

The whole Gallipoli campaign seems to have been just short of what was needed for success. The fighting of the soldiers was superb (on both sides). Just the fact that these areas are referred to as "Forgotten Fronts" (shudder) gives some idea of the inability of some to understand the global nature of this conflict. Gallipoli as a campaign is quite complex and requires a good deal of study to understand it. I have studied it a good deal and know that there is much more to learn! I look forward to comments.

Mike Morrison

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Quote: When viewing Gallipoli, we must remember that it was a part of a World War, a new concept. Viewing the successful prosecution of the war in global terms, the decision to act at Gallipoli made a lot of sense

Correct Mike

Though I would add that while 'World War' was a new concept to the British, they continued to think globally, but in 'imperial' terms. At this stage they still saw a too heavy involvement in a Continental war as dangerous and therefore sought solutions which they believed were uniquely open to them as an imperial and maritime power.

The thinking had not yet caught-up with the scale of the problem. It is not only generals who fight the next war with the ideas carried over from last one, but politicians also fall into the same trap.

Sir Julian Corbett's 'Naval Operations' Vol.II gives a very good analysis of the build-up to the Gallipoli campaign indicating who thought what & when.

Jan 1915; Sir John French saw stalemate on the Western Front and thought that only Russia in the east with its vast man-power could bring a decisive result.

However if France fell, then disaster would result. So, not a man could be withdrawn.

Ministers though were not convinced; the "latest [note the use of the word 'latest'] precedent, that of the Peninsular war" suggested that with the navy to back the army, then operations away from the central theatre might prove to be to our advantage. Northern Europe was out because Denmark and Holland were neutral. Austria via the Adriatic was too tricky because of submarines. Salonica was at this time thought impractical without Greece. Turkey was therefore worth looking at. Since entering the war Turkey had been preparing for action against (British) Egypt and actually taking it against Russia. Indeed, at this very point [Jan 2, 1915] the Russians specifically asked Britain for help against the Turks.

Here Corbett refers to "old influences, which had never permitted us to concentrate in the main European theatre of a great war, were about to reassert themselves. Whether rightly or wrongly, they had always gained the upper hand over pure military doctrine. It would look as though they were inherent in the preoccupations of a world-wide maritime Empire and must always cause its actions to differ from that of more compact Continental Powers."

Looking at the problem in Jan 1915 and knowing nothing of the future, but only the lessons of history, then

"It was on these grounds, then that Lord Kitchener commended his selection of an alternative objective. The case for it was obviously very strong. It followed, moreover, the traditional lines of the system of warfare upon which - whether or not ideally the best - the British Empire had been built up."

regards

Michael

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  • 2 years later...

Looking at Gallipoli, I feel that it is unfair to look at Hamilton as a scape goat, instead we should look higher up the chain of command towards Kitchener. Hamilton was only informed that he was to lead the MEF on the 12th March 1915, and the next day, with no further instructions was sent off to Marseilles on join Birdwood on Tenedos. Kitchener consistently refused Hamilton's demands for more troops, guns and ammunition and became openly hostile towards Hamilton's Chief of Staff (Braithewaite) when he asked for more reconnosance aircraft.

Another point to consider is that it is generally considered vital, even today, for an assaulting force to have a minimum of a 3 to 1 advantage in manpower. Hamilton's force consisted of just over 90,000 men, whilst the Turks and Limman Von Sanders had almost 120,000 available, both on the Gallipoli peninsula and on the asian side of the Straits.

As well as this, vital intelligence such as a 1906 report on the possibility of an attack on the Gallipoli peninsula and Lt-Col Cunliffe-Owen's report on the defences along the Dardanelles and on the peninsula were not given to Hamilton. All Hamilton left England with was an inacurate map of the peninsula and a 1905 handbook on the Turkish military.

When you consider this, it is hard to condemn Hamilton for the failure of the Gallipoli campaign, in fact, I feel that to even have been able to establish a beachead and for the MEF to remain combat effective for as long as it did with the lack of intelligence, manpower and supplies given to Hamilton by Kitchener and the War Council was no mean feat.

Sorry about the essay, am just studying this for my final year dissertation. Any feedback or alternate opinions are more than welcome, let me know what you think of my argument. Any other factors that I could weave into it? Many thanks

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Rightly or wrongly I thought while Hamilton was dealt a poor and in terms of timing, information, supplies etc part of the problem stemmed from his own personality. His army or task force whatever you want to call it was ad hoc and as well as co ordinating with the navy had a variable group of units and staffs in terms of skills and experience, and really required a highly directive commander with a very clear strategy and this wasn't Hamiltons style.

With the widely dispersed nature of the battle and poor communications Hamilton needed to rely on local senior officers to keep things flowing smoothly, and in many cases he couldn't; but he also couldn't bring himself to go and berate those who weren't getting on it on in the case of Hunter Weston losing a lot of men for no good purpose.

Apart from Hunter Weston who is a study in himself the obvious example was Stopford at Suvla. While it may have hurt Stopfords feelings and made everyone feel uncomfortable Hamilton needed to go to Suvla and put the boot in. The Suvla operation needed a strong commander to make it work and Hamilton shouldn't have accepted anyone who couldn't do this.

Hamilton comes across as a nice guy, but Gallopoli needed something different and if it didn't suceed within a few weeks either of the initial landing or of the Suvla landings then all the advantages passed to the Turks and it should have been dropped then.

James

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A landing at Gallipoli was examined in depth by the General Staff in 1907 and was thought to be very risky without a large land force and not without risk, even then. Sir John French was asked his opinion as to attacking elsewhere than on the Western front. He stated that the best it would do would be to draw of 2 or 3 corps and the result would be incommensurate with the resources and effort required. Lord Kitchener thought that it was possible as a combined op with 150,000 troops. In other words, the military advisors were against it at the time, only the politicians thought that diverting resources to other theatres would be productive. Lloyd George wanted every available troop withdrawn from France to invade the Balkans and a force to be landed in Syria. Sir John French thought that there should be a joint effort with the Royal Navy to attack Ostend and Zeebrugge. Kitchener initially supported that plan. Lord Fisher proposed an in invasion of Schleswig Holstein. Robertson says this plan had been mooted before the war but was rejected as infeasible. The facts however, are fairly clear. The Central powers had the internal lines of communication. Any part of their border could be reached, defended and that defence maintained, faster and easier than the Entente could mount or maintain an attack. Germany was by far the dominant member of the Central Powers. She went to war without Turkey and was both able and willing to continue without her. For much of the war, she regarded her alliance with Austria as ' being shackled to a corpse'. Winning in Russia and losing in the Middle East had little or no effect on her conduct of the war. Only when she was defeated in France, did she seek an armistice.

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