The Dardanelles operation (the Gallipoli battle) is a large-scale military operation deployed by England and France. She takes in stories World War I special place. “Gallipoli” became a symbol of not only terrible bloodshed, but also an example of the complete failure of the Western powers of the Entente, which was the result of a reassessment of their forces, underestimation of the enemy, ambitions and mistakes of the military-political leadership.
General situation in the Middle East and the Mediterranean
The Turkish High Command prepared the following war plan, edited by the Germans: 1) to launch an offensive against Russia in the Caucasus by the forces of the 3 Army, while simultaneously trying to raise the local population against the Russians; 2) conduct an offensive against Suez and Egypt by the forces of the 4 Army, raising the Arab population of North Africa against the British and French; 3) to organize a solid defense in the area of the straits.
The offensive of the Turkish army in the Caucasus (Sarikamysh operation) ended in complete defeat. 3-I Turkish army was simply destroyed. A major role in this defeat was played by the mistakes of the German-Turkish command. Turkish troops were not ready to conduct an offensive in the mountains in winter conditions.
In addition, the German-Turkish command paid much attention to Suezu. The value of the Suez Canal was very high, as it was the center of British imperial communications, connecting England with India, Indochina, Australia and Oceania, and the central oil-bearing region supplying liquid fuel to the British military and merchant fleet. For France, this path was also extremely important, as it connected the metropolis with the colonies. Therefore, after the entry of Turkey into the war, Germany indicated the need to seize the canal, and then the whole of Egypt. In addition, the capture of Egypt by the Ottomans could lead to a general uprising of Muslims in North Africa, which unleashed the hands of the Germans in Central and Southern Africa, and it was dangerous for the British and the French.
In January 1915 was sent from Bersheba to the Suez Canal by the expeditionary army of Jemal Pasha with a force of about 20 thousand soldiers. The Ottomans planned to force the canal, break into Egypt and raise a rebellion of the Muslim population there. To lead the army through the desert was a very difficult task. However, the Turks hoped that the British did not expect attacks and that the channel was guarded by insignificant forces.
Despite the very difficult and poorly organized campaign through the waterless Sinai desert, which weakened the Turkish troops, the Turks still passed. 2 February 1915 The Ottomans almost took the channel that the British divisions 2 defended during a strong sandstorm. Contrary to the expectations of the Ottomans, the British were ready to attack. On the channel we built trenches, prepared firing points. Finally, the situation in favor of the British turned the ships. The Turkish attacks were eventually repulsed with 3 warships. The Arab militias, who formed the basis of the Turkish corps, simply fled. Many deserted, ran over to the side of the British. However, the Turks created a strong stronghold in the city of El-Arish. And left him only after the outbreak of hostilities in the Dardanelles.
The British, in turn, planned to strike at Turkey. Even before World War, the British command had thought about the capture of the Dardanelles, including as an action to prevent the seizure of straits by Russia. However, for a long time Turkey was in the sphere of influence of England and there was no need for such an operation. Only after Turkey reoriented itself to Germany, did the British return to the idea of seizing the Dardanelles.
The beginning of hostilities in the area of the straits
Given that neither the British nor the French developed a definite plan of war with the Ottoman Empire, and the likelihood of Turkey’s side with Germany was high, a meeting of representatives of the maritime and land agencies was convened by the first lord of the English admiralty Winston Churchill on September 1. At this meeting it was proposed to consider the Dardanelles issue. The head of the Operations Directorate, General Calvell, reported that he considered the operation against the Dardanelles very difficult and that 1914, thousands of people, would have to be attracted. Calvell proposed to shift the responsibility for the operation to Greece.
Back in August, the Greek government informed the British that Greece was ready to place its army and navy at the disposal of the Entente for a possible operation on the Gallipoli peninsula. The Greeks already had a detailed plan for the operation. However, then the British rejected this proposal, guaranteeing Turkey’s full immunity, in the event that the last benevolent neutrality was maintained.
Now the British themselves turned to the Greeks. The Greeks replied that they considered it possible to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula, but subject to a joint appearance with Bulgaria. The Greeks noted that they themselves can carry out the operation, having received relatively little help from the British fleet (2 battleships, several cruisers, destroyer flotilla).
After the German ships “Geben” and “Breslau” were incorporated into the Turkish fleet, when the Germans actually took the lead of the German-Turkish fleet, the observation of the straits in September 1914 passed into the blockade. In addition, the British were afraid that the Austrian ships from Paula would pass into the Sea of Marmara, having further strengthened the German-Turkish naval forces. Therefore, the British, based on the Wise (on the island of Lemnos), kept a squadron of the Mediterranean Sea here.
The Turkish command was worried. The Ottomans were concentrated at the end of 1914 in the Gallipoli area of the 3 Army Corps under the command of Essad Pasha as part of the 7, 9 and 19 infantry divisions. With the arrival of the German instructors, the work went at an accelerated pace.
29 - October 30 1914, the Turkish-German squadron fired at Odessa, Sevastopol, Feodosia and Novorossiysk. Turkey started a war with Russia. On November 1, the commander of the Mediterranean squadron, Vice Admiral Cardin, was ordered to fire at the external fortifications of the Dardanelles from a safe distance for ships. At dawn on November 3 Cardin he approached the entrance to the Dardanelles, giving the French battleships task bombard forts Orcagna and Kum Kale, while he and his battlecruisers "Invincible» (Indomitable) and "tireless» (Indefatigable) began bombing Helles forts and Sedd- El Bar. During 4 hours, the British fired 76, and the French 30 30,5-see shells. The Turks answered with shortfalls. During the bombing of the fort Sedd el-Bar, there was a powerful explosion, as the English projectile hit the main powder magazine fortifications. After this demonstration, the Anglo-French fleet returned to the island of Lemnos and became in the Bay of Mudros, not showing any activity for a long time.
Superiority in the artillery of the Allies over the Turks was almost fourfold. It should be borne in mind that most of the Turkish guns were obsolete samples. Militarily shelling practically nothing. And politically caused the opposite effect. The Ottomans were frightened, but did not come to their senses; on the contrary, they understood that the Dardanelles must be urgently strengthened. This prompted the German General Staff to carefully study the issue of the defense of the straits. The German General Staff understood that a breakthrough of the British fleet to Constantinople was fraught with the exit of the Ottoman Empire from the war, which leads to the loss of an ally, the strengthening of Russia's positions, the loss of sources of raw materials and the deterioration of the situation in the Balkans. The Germans began to send officers and modern military materials through Romania and Bulgaria.
Dardanelles are very convenient for protection against invasion from the sea - long (about 70 km) and narrow (minimum width 1300, maximum width 7½ km and depth from 46 to 104 m) the strait lies between the coasts of the Gallipoli peninsula and Asia Minor, which have there mainly large-hilly terrain, ideal for placing artillery in closed positions. The straits in three places were intercepted by narrows forming natural pools: 1) narrowness of the southern entrance (Kum-Kale, Sedd-el-Bar), 3 km wide, followed by Karanlyk stretch, stretching 22 km; 2) Chanak and Kilid-Bar narrowness, 1½ km wide; 3) Narrowness of Nagara and Kiliya, 1 ½ km wide, and further upstream 31 km long with access to the Sea of Marmara at the heights of Chardak and Gallipoli.
True, the enemy has the opportunity to get a good springboard for the invasion. The islands of Imbros, Tenedos and Lemnos lie in 25, 30 and 80 km from the entrance to the straits and have good raids to concentrate ships. These islands can serve as a good operational base for preliminary concentration of the landing force and material support of the operation. And after breaking into the Sea of Marmara, Constantinople could be attacked.
Before the war, the Dardanelles were weakly fortified. Most of the fortifications of the straits consisted mainly of old open forts, built by French and English engineers during the Russian-Turkish war 1877-1878. They were armed with old cannons. Just before the start of World War II, they were reinforced with several new batteries with Krupp guns. All these defenses were grouped as follows: 1) at the Aegean entrances (Fort 4: Ertogrul or Cape Helles, Sedd el-Bar, Orkaniye, Kum-Kale), 2) at the heights of Cape Kefetz, 3) at Chanak and Kilid-Bara and 4) at Nagara. All in all, there were about 100 guns with a range of 7 500-9 600 m and with a small stock of shells.
The landing could be carried out either on the Asian or the European coast. On the Asian coast, convenient areas were from Bezik Bay to Cape Kum-Kale, and after the landing, the troops had to break through to Nagar to eliminate artillery batteries there. In the case of landing on the European coast, it was necessary to land landing on the Gallipoli peninsula. The peninsula was dotted with steep ravines, cliffs, and we walk only through few and bad roads. The first mines in the strait of the Ottomans put 4 in August 1914, that is, the Allied command had to conduct a landing operation in order to succeed.
After the British fired on the coastal forts, the Turks took serious measures to strengthen the Dardanelles: 1) it was decided to concentrate the main means of defense in the central part of the straits, out of sight and reach of the allied ship artillery from the Aegean Sea; 2) put several rows of minefields, and in order to impede their trawling, special light batteries are formed; 3) heavy batteries had to solve only the task of fighting with enemy ships; 4) floodlights are replenished; 5) torpedo stations are installed on the banks; 6) go under the anti-submarine network; 7) The Turkish fleet, located in the Sea of Marmara, was to support the defense with its artillery and attack enemy ships if they break through the defensive lines in the central part of the straits.
The Dardanelles defense forces, consisting of the 7 and 9 infantry divisions of the 3 Army Corps (Mustafa Kemal's 19 Division was still being formed), were reinforced by the 6 gendarmerie battalions and 78 guns. Formally, the Turkish group in the Dardanelles was subordinate to the Minister of War Enver Pasha, but in fact it was led by Admiral Guido von Used. The command of the coastal defense forces in the Dardanelles area was in the hands of Vice Admiral Franz Merten. The presence of a large number of German officers significantly improved the organization of defense.
Only 25 in November 1914. The British in the military council for the first time discussed a detailed draft of a serious operation against the Dardanelles. The British received information that the German-Turkish command plans to attack Suez and the seizure of Egypt, and alarmed. First Lord of the Admiralty Churchill proposed an immediate operation on the Turkish coast, which, in his opinion, was the best defense of Egypt. He believed that the capture of Gallipoli could provide the British with control over the straits and help take Constantinople. He believed that this can be done by the forces of one fleet. In addition, the British hoped to organize a “color revolution” in Istanbul. The British supported the opposition of the “Old Turks”, who wanted to carry out a palace coup and transfer Turkey to the Entente camp.
However, Kitchener noted that although the need for such an operation is evident, it is now untimely to undertake the operation. However, preparatory activities were allowed. As a result, although there was no definite decision, Churchill had control over the real forces and began to prepare the operation.
Soon the British received enough reason for such an operation. So, in preparation for the 1915 campaign, the Anglo-French command appealed to the Russian high command in early January with a request to step up the actions of the Russian army on the Eastern front in order to maximally alleviate the position of the allies in the West. The Russian Stavka agreed to their request, but on the condition that the Anglo-French, in turn, would hold a large demonstration in the area of the straits in order to distract the Ottomans from the Caucasus. Such a condition was quite suitable for the Russian allies, especially England. Now it was possible to say that the operation began to go towards Russia. They explained that it would be very useful for Russia, would allow it to establish a direct communication with it through the Black Sea, to bring the Ottoman Empire out of the war. In reality, the British saw this as an opportunity to preempt Russia in the seizure of Constantinople and the Turkish straits. In addition, London and Paris hoped with their loud victory to speed up the entry of Italy into the war on the side of the Entente and to improve the situation in the Balkans (to restrain Bulgaria and attract Romania).
Having learned about the true intentions of their partners in the war, that the operation would not be demonstrative, but real, in St. Petersburg they sounded the alarm. The Russian government began to persistently push Britain and France to resolve the issue of the future fate of Constantinople and the straits in favor of Russia. But Britain and France in every way delayed negotiations on this issue. And only in the course of the Dardanelles operation, when the Allies failed, did they have to agree to the annexation of Russia of Constantinople with the adjacent straits of the straits. But under the condition that the Russian Empire will fight to the end on the side of Britain and France. At the same time, the British and French bargained for themselves tidbits on the future section of the Ottoman Empire. The Agreement on the Bosphorus was formalized in March - early April, 1915.
12 January 1915 Cardin's plan was received by the admiralty. The British knew all the pre-war fortifications and weapons of the Ottomans, it was also known that the Turks had strengthened their defenses and laid mines since the beginning of the war. In general, the fleet had vague and incomplete information about the defense of the enemy. Carden believed that the main thing was to solve the problem of mines and the destruction of coastal fortifications. The British plan called for: 1) the destruction of four forts covering the entrance to the straits and the same first pool reach; 2) mines trailing to narrowness between Kilid-Bar and Chanak; 3) actions inside the strait and the destruction of the batteries of Cape Kefetz; 4) destruction of the fortifications of the narrow part of the strait; 5) mines trawling from анаanak and destruction of local batteries; 6) forcing a fleet of Chanak narrowness; 7) further march on Constantinople. A month was allotted for the operation and they planned to achieve victory by the forces of one fleet.
Churchill approved this plan and stressed that the possibility of destroying forts with heavy artillery had already been verified by the destruction of fortresses during the German offensive at the beginning of the war in Belgium and in France. Churchill at the meeting of the military council reported to Cardin’s plan, saying that the artillery of the Turkish forts was outdated and inferior to the modern ship artillery of the allied fleet. It creates fire superiority. Lord Kitchener agreed with this idea, saying that in case of failure, you can always stop the operation. The First Sea Lord Fisher was against scattering the forces of the British fleet. As a result, the Cardin Plan approved. The operation was scheduled for February.
By mid-February, the ships of the British Pacific Squadron arrived at Cardin's naval forces. At the February meeting of the British Council of Ministers 16, it was decided: to remove the 29 th British infantry division from the French front to transfer it to Lemnos; another division to send to Egypt; connect to the operation of the battalion of the Marine Corps; to prepare transports and transport means for disembarking 50 in Turkey, thousand people. The operation was planned to start on February 15, but it began on February 19, as it was postponed due to bad weather.
Admiral Cardin’s plan, supported by senior British officials, initially did not take into account a number of critical factors. So, the Ottoman command had time to prepare new fortifications and batteries, not known to the British, for the quick transfer of forces and equipment necessary for defense to a dangerous area. The ship’s guns, in spite of all their power, did not possess the capabilities of howitzer artillery, i.e. had no mounted fire and could not hit targets in closed positions. The operation was expected for a month, that is, the Turks could continue to strengthen the defense of the Dardanelles and restore the destroyed positions and build new ones. The British underestimated the danger of mines, the threat from aviation, torpedo bombers and submarines. In general, the British underestimated the enemy and overestimated their strength.
Speech by Winston Churchill
To be continued ...