Thursday, April 24, 2008


During WWI, 93 years ago, the first Australian and New Zealander troops landed on the isthmus of Gallipoli, which is at the mouth of the Dardenelles, the entrance to the Black Sea. The British were attempting to capture Istanbul and open a sea route to Russia. The mastermind of this invasion was one Winston Churchill, at the time First Lord of the Admiralty, and he based his recommendation on faulty information regarding Turkish troop strength provided by one T.E. Lawrence (yes, Lawrence of Arabia).

The invasion was a disaster. The Turkish commander, Mustafa Kemal, had far more troops available to defend the straits than the British thought. His masterful defense won him universal acclaim in Turkey and led to his more commonly used name Kemal Ataturk. His success at Gallipoli led to his leadership of a group of patriots known as the Young Turks who deposed the Sultan and established Turkey as a secular republic several years later.

As a percent of their initial force, Australia and New Zealand were the most damaged forces, and Gallipoli is often credited with making these countries see themselves as individual nations, as opposed to British offshoots. ANZAC day (April 25th) remains the biggest holiday of the year in these countries (think Fourth of July and Presidents Day all in one - white sales AND fireworks).

The scale of life lost is staggering, considering that the area fought over is only about 60 miles long and maybe ten miles wide at its widest. The numbers are pretty scary:

Country(Killed - Wounded)
UK (21,255 - 52,230)
Australia (7,594 - 20,000)
N.Z. (2,701 - 4,456)
India (1,358 - 3,421)
Turks (55,801 - 140,000)
Total(all) (99,893 - 237,037)

For comparison purposes, there were about 8,000 killed and 27,000 wounded at Gettysburg. The Union Army lost an estimated 110,000 men during the entire Civil War.

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