new zealand military

“HMNZS Leander (New Zealand Light Cruiser, 1933) in Suva harbor, Fiji, in February 1942. Photographed from USS Curtiss (AV-4). USS Chicago (CA-29) is in the background, at right. Note Leander’s pattern camouflage, and the PBY Catalina flying boat on the water in the far right distance.”

(NHHC: 80-G-7294)

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January 9th 1916: Gallipoli campaign ends

The gallipoli campaign had shown that the ageing Ottoman empire would not crumble just yet. It had nearly ended the career of young politician winston Churchill and has weaved its way into the hearts and minds of Australia and New zealand, as a defining part of their national identity.

By october 1914 the Ottoman empire had joined the central powers and had attacked the russian navy at Odessa. The Ottomans had been lured in by the germans who had promised territorial gains in the caucasus area of Russia. The Ottoman empire had been slowly losing ground over the centuries and had been labelled the “sick man of europe”.

British first lord of the admiralty a young Winston Churchill was determined to show off British naval might and not let the BEF ground troops take all the glory. Winston proposed a strategy that would knock the ottomans out of the war. The Ottomans out of the war meant more troops on the eastern front, thus the germans could be knocked out faster. Winstons plan was to use a large number of obsolete warships that could not operate against the german fleet however were still good for naval support. They would force the dardanelles and would land ground troops at constantinople. Push through the weak ottoman army and take the city. Knocking them out of the war and opening up a supply route to Russia. 

Ironically winston had stated a few years before. 

“It should be remembered that it is no longer possible to force the Dardanelles, and nobody would expose a modern fleet to such peril.”

The British fleet of 28 pre dreadnoughts, 25 destroyers, 23 cruisers and 13 submarines headed for the dardanelles straits. The straits were narrow and lined with forts and artillery. The Germans had also gifted their newfound allies with 2 modern battlecruisers . The straits were covered with minefields and the British wanted to stroll right through. Churchill proved himself right when 3 british ships were sunk and 5 damaged with only around 118 ottoman casualties and now real success for the British. 

The ground troops, called the Mediterranean expeditionary force consisted of 78,000 british and ANZAC men (australian and new zealand army corps). The ANZACS managed to establish a small beachhead at what is now known as ANZAC cove. As did the british at cape Helles. They were trapped in by Ottoman forces and held out on the smallest of beaches. By this time trench warfare had set in and the troops held out in sticky, humid, disease ridden trenches. British commander Ian Hamilton made request to retreat but they were denied. More reinforcements were sent only to be sent to their deaths at doomed landings like Suvla bay and horrific trench warfare on the Helles front and at ANZAC cove.

opposition to this new front grew as time went on. The British had made little progress at the cost of 200,000 casualties. Winston Churchill grand ideas of a glorious british naval campaign had been crushed. Being far away from constantinople and with no hope in sight. the British had withdrawn all of their invasion force by the 9th of january. Winston Churchill resigned and left for the western front that year. Commander Hamilton was never given any other appointment and spent the rest of the war in London. 

ANZAC day is celebrated in both Australia and New zealand and is regarded as a direct link to the British granting them their independence for their bravery at Gallipoli. The campaign is regarded as a major allied disaster and a show of strength for the turks. Overall casualties come in at around 450,000. 

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April 25th 1915: Gallipoli campaign begins

On this day in 1915, during World War One, the doomed Gallipoli campaign began on the Gallipoli peninsula in the Ottoman Empire. The plan was the brainchild of British Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill, who intended to weaken the Ottoman war effort by opening another front in the Dardanelles, forcing Germany to split their army and send troops to aid their Turkish allies. Churchill’s proposal was risky, underestimating the ability of the Turkish army, and was hastily pushed through the War Office. The initial naval attack in the Dardanelles in February had some success, but British and ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) troops were soon called in to push inland and capture Constantinople. The landings began on April 25th, with Allied troops deployed at separate beaches. One of the most famous landings were the ANZAC forces at Anzac Cove, where they faced fierce resistance from the Turks. The British fared little better at Cape Helles, and by May, 20,000 of the 70,000 men deployed suffered causalities. The campaign continued for months, with Allied soldiers living under Turkish fire and shelling, and suffering poor conditions in the trenches. Eventually, fierce critics of the operation began to speak out, and in December and January the Allied forces were evacuated from Gallipoli. The campaign was a disaster for the Allies, who lost around 45,000 men, and failed to make any strategic gains. While the Turkish successfully and bravely defended their country, it proved a Pyrrhic victory as they lost 86,000 soldiers in the campaign. This day is commemorated in Australia and New Zealand as Anzac Day, in honour of the over 10,000 soldiers who died during the Gallipoli campaign representing their countries as independent nations.

“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives…you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours.”
- Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who fought at Gallipoli, on the ANZAC dead in 1934

100 years ago