Pen & Sword, 2019
Gallipoli, like the Somme and Passchendaele, is a place indelibly associated with the First World War. My first introduction to the campaign here was Peter Weir’s film of the same name. Watching this as a boy this no doubt defined my early ‘knowledge’ of the campaign, that of the Anzacs sacrificed by the callous British generals. It is only more recently, through researching local men who served in the peninsular, that I began to better understand what happened there. My interest was cemented when I discovered that a great great uncle had served in Gallipoli; he was in one of the later units to arrive on the peninsula and was invalided home prior to the evacuation of the rest of his battalion. Visiting Gallipoli is now firmly on my ‘to do’ list, but in the current climate I had to make do with reading Stephen Chambers’ book and having a virtual tour using Google Earth.
The book is broken down into sections covering the naval assault on the Dardanelles, Anzac, Helles, Suvla, and the evacuation. Each section starts with a general background and is followed by a tour.
The background to each aspect provides a decent amount of information and uses a mix of official accounts, war dairies, and personal accounts to help describe what happened. Details of numerous individuals of interest are given. The tours take the reader to points of interest and the cemeteries and memorials that dot the peninsular and that inevitably some of those whose stories are told are buried in or commemorated on. The tour maps seem simple to follow but obviously I can’t comment on how that translates to being on the ground itself!
As well as providing a narrative of events the book provides some analysis of the campaign, commenting on the lack of command and control, unrealistic and over-optimistic objectives and timetables, and the fact that the tenacity and resilience of the Turkish soldiers was vastly underestimated. Some blame for the failures is inevitably (and rightly) attributed to poor leadership (such as that of Stopford at Suvla), but Chambers also acknowledges that the landing of an entire force on hostile shores was no mean feat and one from which valuable lessons were learnt.
Chambers’ knowledge about the campaign shines through from the start – he has written several guidebooks focusing on different areas of the battlefield – and I found the book a succinct and highly readable introduction to the campaign in its own right, as well as a tour guide. So whether you are looking for a guidebook or a concise introduction to the campaign, Chambers’ offering is well worth your attention.
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