Churchill's Humiliation at the Hands of Ottoman Navy
This Saturday, Anzac day, marks the hundredth anniversary of one of the most important battles of the First World War - and forms one of the pillars of Britain's centenary schedule.
Yet despite intense remembrance in Turkey, Australia and New Zealand, this anniversary seems to resonate less with the British public than those of the First Battle of Ypres or the Marne. Perhaps this is because it was such a catastrophic loss for the Allies. Or perhaps it was because it is because Winston Churchill, the primary architect of the disastrous campaign, was to become a British icon and national hero in the next world war.
Gallipoli has been called "Churchill’s Folly", and the leader himself criticised as irresponsible and reckless. Recently, a historian on Twitter even said the entire scheme was "utter nonsense". However, this was not strictly true. Churchill’s scheme can only be understood in the context of his relationship with the Ottoman leaders before the First World War.
Winston Churchill’s World War Disaster
A quarter-century before boldly leading Britain in World War II, Winston Churchill spearheaded a World War I military debacle—Gallipoli.
In the wake of the failed naval attack, the Allies launched a major land invasion of Gallipoli on April 25. The month-long delay allowed the Turks to rush reinforcements to the peninsula and boost their defenses, and the British, French and members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) could make little progress from their beachheads. The turquoise waters of the Aegean Sea turned crimson as the stiff Turkish resistance struck down the waves of Allied forces that washed ashore. The Battle of Gallipoli became a slaughter and quickly morphed into a stalemate just as bloody, just as pointless as that on the Western Front. In the first month after storming the peninsula, the Allies lost 45,000 men. The ill-fated Gallipoli Campaign lasted nine months before the evacuation of the last Allied troops in January 1916. Each side sustained 250,000 casualties with 46,000 Allied troops and 65,000 Turkish troops dead.
The invasion had been scuttled by incompetence and hesitancy by military commanders, but, fairly or unfairly, Churchill was the scapegoat. The Gallipoli disaster threw the government into crisis, and the Liberal prime minister was forced to bring the opposition Conservatives into a coalition government. As part of their agreement to share power, the Conservatives wanted Churchill, a renegade politician who had bolted their party a decade earlier, out from the Admiralty. In May 1915, Churchill was demoted to an obscure cabinet post.