First glimpses of the Gallipoli Peninsula

ALTHOUGH senior members of General Sir Ian Hamilton's staff had devised a landing plan for various points along the Gallipoli Peninsula, the brigadiers, battalion commanders and other staff who would carry out the orders had still not eyeballed the place.

On April 13, 1915, those officers boarded the British navy's HMS Queen to examine the coastline on which they were to land within a fortnight.

Perhaps not unexpectedly, almost everyone viewed what official Australian war historian Charles Bean called a "tangle of distant hills, covered with dark scrub" quite differently.


According to Bean, Colonel Ewen Sinclair-MacLagan - commanding the 3rd Brigade responsible for landing just north of Gaba Tepe - immediately saw the difficulties of the terrain and believed it would be "almost impregnable" for his troops if that section was strongly held with guns.

Australian Imperial Force commander General William Bridges thought MacLagan was being negative, while Anzac commander General William Birdwood tried to rally his spirits.

Others still seemed quite happy with the arrangements, with one writing at the time: "The beach selected seems excellent."

Hamilton had initially wanted the Anzac landings to take place in daylight following a naval bombardment of the shore and hills, but Birdwood convinced him otherwise.

Birdwood wanted to retain the element of surprise as much as was possible, given the Turks already had several weeks warning of a landing, and boats were steadily amassing in Mudros Harbour, at the nearby island of Lemnos.

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The only surprise the Allies had up their sleeves was precise timing and location of the landings.

So it was agreed the Anzacs would arrive before daybreak, with the main risk of this plan being the possibility of losing direction under the cover of darkness (something that turned out to be a relevant concern).

On returning to Lemnos, the officers then spent the rest of the time holed up on the ship Minnewaska working on the more detailed planning for the landings.

Bean later wrote of some of the major failings of the planning, including the exclusion of the chief medical officer from preparations for projected casualties and their transport.

"It was assumed that the enemy was utterly inferior," he said.

"It was also assumed that the trained brains of the General Staff were sufficient to deal with all the real problems of battle ... as if war were a matter of tactics alone."

Meanwhile, troopship after troopship continued to sail into Mudros Harbour in preparation for the landings to come.

When the Australians saw the bare hills of Lemnos, one of them remarked with trademark cheer and sarcasm: "I'm going to take up land here after the war."

It was a joke, of course. But it was also an assumption of surviving.



Cape Helles landings

THIS was the plan.

The British 29th Division, backed up by French troops, were to carry out the main landings at five beaches on Cape Helles, with the Kilid Bahr Plateau as their main objective.

The plateau commanded the Kilid Bahr forts, overlooking the Narrows - the narrowest section of the Dardanelles.
If they could silence those forts, the navy had a chance of clearing the remaining mines and getting through the Dardanelles, into the Sea of Marmara and on to Constantinople.

This had, after all, been a naval operation right from the start.

The objective for the British and French on the first day, however, was to reach the hill of Achi Baba on the way up to the plateau.

Meanwhile, the Anzacs were to land on the beach between the headland of Gaba Tepe and Fisherman's Hut, about 4km north, and act in part as a diversion.

By advancing up to Hill 971, about a mile or so inland, they would also be in a position both to stop the passage of Turkish reinforcements from the north, and to cut off a retreat from Kilid Bahr Plateau from the south - or so their orders told them.

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