On 25 April 1915, Allied forces launched an amphibious invasion to seize the Gallipoli peninsula (in modern day Turkey) from the Ottoman Empire. What was envisaged as a quick operation became a protracted campaign which would last until Allied forces were evacuated in January 1916.

The Dardanelles

In November 1914, Britain and France declared war on the Ottoman Empire following Ottoman naval actions against Russia. The Allies sought to force the Ottoman Empire out of the war quickly and open up a supply route to Russia. In March 1915, a combined British and French fleet tried to force a passage through the Dardanelles - the narrow straits which guarded the approach to the sea of Marmara and the Ottoman capital Constantinople - but were prevented by coastal artillery and mines which sank three battleships. The fleet withdrew and plans were drawn up for an amphibious invasion of the Gallipoli peninsula to destroy the Ottoman guns.

The Landings

On the morning of 25 April 1915, Allied forces invaded the Gallipoli peninsula. British and Indian Army troops landed on the southern tip around Cape Helles. Meanwhile, Australian and New Zealand forces landed further up the west coast at a place which became known as Anzac Cove after the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps - ANZAC. Other British and French troops made diversionary landings on the Asiatic coast before reinforcing the landings at Gallipoli. Ottoman troops mounted strong resistance, particularly at Anzac Cove and the terrain proved to be far more inhospitable than expected.

During the following days and weeks, the Allies were forced to dig in to maintain their precarious grip on the isolated beachheads in the face of determined Ottoman counter-attacks. The conditions for the troops at the beaches were appalling. They were exposed to the elements with little water and unable to bury all of the dead. Flies and disease were endemic. They were often overlooked by Ottoman troops who held the higher ground, particularly at Anzac Cove. Here there was constant sniping, raiding and tunnelling between the trench lines, which in places were only several metres apart.

August Offensive

In early August, new landings took place north of Anzac Cove at Suvla Bay and Allied forces launched a fresh offensive at Helles, Anzac and Suvla, hoping to break the deadlock. Fierce battles took place at Lone Pine and Chunuk Bair where New Zealand troops managed briefly to hold the high ground. The offensive failed to end the stalemate and resulted in heavy causalities on both sides.

As autumn turned to winter, the Gallipoli Peninsula was blasted by icy gales and blizzards which caused serious flooding. With hopes fading and soldiers suffering terribly from disease, frostbite and exposure, the decision was taken to evacuate Allied forces. In December, troops from Suvla and Anzac Cove were evacuated and the final soldiers left Helles in January 1916.

Aftermath

Of some 410,000 Commonwealth servicemen who served on the peninsula, some 205,000 became casualties as a result of the campaign, including 43,000 dead, captured or listed as missing. Some 47,000 French servicemen became casualties of a total force of 79,000. Ottoman casualties are estimated to have been between 250,000 and 350,000.

Even before the end of the campaign, Allied forces were being diverted to a new front at Salonika (Thessaloniki) in Greece. British and Commonwealth forces were evacuated to Egypt and from there many were sent to the Western Front, including Australian and New Zealand Divisions. Others remained in Egypt and would go on serve in the Sinai and Palestine campaigns.

Related Cemeteries & Memorials

Helles Memorial stands on the southernmost tip of the Gallipoli Peninsula. It serves the dual function of Commonwealth battle memorial for the whole of the Gallipoli campaign and the place of commemoration for more than 20,000 servicemen of the British Empire who died during the campaign and have no known grave.

Lone Pine Cemetery stands on Lone Pine plateau, an important feature of the battlefield at Anzac Sector. Buried or commemorated in the cemetery are more than 1,160 servicemen of the First World War, of whom more than 500 remain unidentified. Within the cemetery is the Lone Pine Memorial which lists the names of more than 4,930 servicemen of the British Empire, some 4,220 of Australian forces and more than 700 of the New Zealand units who died during the Gallipoli Campaign and have no known grave.

Chunuk Bair Cemetery stands on dominating heights of Chunuk Bair, the principle British objective for the August Offensive. Buried in the cemetery are more than 630 servicemen of the British Empire, only 10 of which lay in named graves, the rest are unknown. Within the cemetery stands the Chunuk Bair New Zealand Memorial which lists the names of nearly 850 New Zealand servicemen who died in the north of Anzac Sector and who have no known grave.