Anglo-Boer War Veterans in the Gallipoli, March 1915, Campaign

Turkish commanders defending their homeland in Gallipoli, 1915.

Turkish commanders defending their homeland in Gallipoli, 1915.

Published Mar 31, 2024


On March 18, 1915, British troops embarked on a significant chapter of military history with their involvement in the Gallipoli Campaign during World War I.

The British Army’s participation in the Gallipoli Campaign formed part of a larger strategy to open a new front against the Central Powers, primarily the Ottoman Empire.

Spearheaded by First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill, the objective was to secure a sea route to Russia and eliminate the Ottoman threat.

However, due to inadequate planning, intelligence failures, and formidable Ottoman defences, the operation turned into a prolonged and gruelling conflict.

Facing daunting challenges from the start, British forces encountered rugged terrain and determined Ottoman defences led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

The campaign unfolded through a series of amphibious landings, with British forces landing at Cape Helles and Anzac (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) forces at Anzac Cove.

The British landings at Cape Helles encountered fierce resistance, and despite initial gains, progress stalled amid the Ottomans’ determined defence. The subsequent months saw relentless and costly trench warfare similar to that on the Western Front, with both sides sustaining heavy casualties.

Simultaneously, Anzac forces encountered their own set of challenges at Anzac Cove, including rugged terrain, cliffs, and well-prepared Ottoman defences. Despite the bravery and determination of ANZAC troops, progress was slow, and the campaign evolved into a brutal stalemate. The leadership of the British Army faced criticism for lack of co-ordination and failure to adapt to the terrain challenges.

General Sir Ian Hamilton, the overall commander of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, was eventually replaced by General Monro, who recognised the impracticality of the campaign and recommended the evacuation of Allied forces. The decision to evacuate marked the end of the Gallipoli Campaign for the British Army.

The Gallipoli Campaign served as a painful lesson for the British Army, highlighting the complexities of amphibious warfare, terrain challenges, and the critical importance of meticulous planning in their efforts to occupy Turkish land.

It also holds historical significance for South Africa, as it was one of the first major military engagements involving South African troops during World War I.

Some South African commanders participated in the campaign, joining British forces deployed in battles against the Ottoman Empire.

Despite its ultimate failure, the campaign remains a significant chapter in military history, and British commanders like Generals Ian Hamilton, Lord Kitchener, Winston Churchill, Henry Lukin and Charles Townshend, who contributed to the Anglo-Boer War in South Africa, also fought against the Ottomans in Türkìye.

Strangely enough, Muslims wave the Turkish flag in mosques in South Africa to support the Ottoman Caliphate, which is recorded as “GG 6869/11/9, Flying of Turkish Flag on Mohammedan Mosques” in the National Archives of South Africa.

The story of Anzac soldiers and the sight of Cape Muslims wearing Ottoman fezzes at the Cape of Good Hope, which caused fear in the Simon’s Bay harbour in 1916, is the subject of another article.

* Halim Gençoğlu.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus

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