It’s Anzac Day this weekend and it’s going to be a big one! It’s the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli but a lot of people don’t know much about the landings at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915, so for my next ‘quick history’ post I would shed some light on the history of Anzac Day, myth busters style.
I’m bringing in an expert (aka my husband) to help me out for this one because military history is his thing (he is literally an expert – he’s spoken at conferences and taken people on battlefield tours at Gallipoli so he definitely knows his stuff!)
Myth 1: We landed at the wrong beach
False! The popular story is that we landed at the wrong beach on 25 April 1915, but this is completely wrong. There was a ‘landing zone’ designated of a stretch of coast of about 3km between Gaba Tepe and Fishermans Hut. Anzac Cove (where we landed – not what it was called at the time by the way!) was almost the exact middle of the landing zone. So we landed in the right spot.
Why we landed there is interesting. The objective of the beach landing was to capture the high ground and make their way across to the Dardanelles and then strike out south attacking forts and gun positions to allow the navy to get through the Dardanelles (specifically The Narrows – the narrow part of the straight between Chanak and Kilid Bahr on the map).
The easiest spot to do this was further along the coastline but it was also the most heavily defended position. The absolute worst place to land was Anzac Cove, which made it the best place to land. Let me explain. Anzac Cove had the steepest terrain, and was the hardest way to achieve the objective, which meant it was lightly defended because the Turks did not expect us to land there. So the fact that it was the worst place to land in fact made it the best place (strategically) to land. But very hard for the soldiers!
Probably also worth noting that we refer to it as a ‘landing’, whereas it could be more accurately described as an invasion of a foreign land.
Myth 2: We landed at dawn
We actually started landing before dawn. I think having the Dawn Service has led people to think that we landed at dawn, but there were landings happening from before dawn and throughout the campaign.
Myth 3: We fought on the beach
I think when people imagine the landing they think it looked like Saving Private Ryan. The fighting actually happened on the ridges and it wasn’t very heavily defended when we landed as there were only 200 Turks there.
Myth 4: Australians suffered huge loss of life as part of the campaign
8,709 Australians died during the 8 months of the Gallipoli campaign. This number is just over 10,000 for the ‘Anzacs’ if you include the Kiwis. The Turkish on the other hand lost as many as 110,000 during the campaign, but we will never know exact numbers.
In comparison, 1,299 Australians died in about 24 hours at Fromelles on the Western Front in 1916. In our fighting on the Western Front (1916-1918) approximately 45,000 Australian soldiers died, a far greater loss than occurred at Gallipoli.
Myth 5: It was an Australian campaign
There were more than 55,000 Allied deaths, and Australians only account for 8,709 of those. The British, French, New Zealand, Indian and Canadian (New Foundland if we’re being technical) forces were also at Gallipoli with the Australians.
The British actually stayed there until all the Australians had been evacuated from Gallipoli. Our troops were gone in December 1915, the British troops left in January 1916.
I hope this has provided a bit more enlightenment on the events that took place 100 years ago at Gallipoli. I encourage you to remember this campaign this weekend, as well as all the other Australians who have lost their lives fighting for Australia in the years since then.
Did you know the truth to any of these myths? Or did you learn something new?
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