Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Friday, October 4, 2019

That Fraud "Achi Baba"

The largest effort of the opening amphibious assault at Gallipoli was at Cape Helles, the tip of the Gallipoli Peninsula. In this passage British geologist Peter Doyle explains why the whole effort was ill considered. Your editor has stood on the summit of Achi Baba and can confirm Professor Doyle's description.

Click on Map to Enlarge

1. Helles Landing Beaches; 2. Krithia Village; 3. Achi Baba;
4. Fort at Kilid Bahr
(Map depicts naval attack of 18 March, not landings or land campaign)

After 25 April, the "Battle of the Beaches," static trench positions similar to those of the Western Front developed. Soon after the landing at Cape Helles, the British overcame, with terrible losses, the Turkish positions located on the surrounding cliffs. Their final objective of this first phase was the summit of Achi Baba, the high point of the Kilid Bahr plateau at 218 m, which should have commanded the village of Kilid Bahr itself, one of the main fortresses of the Dardanelles.

View from Achi Baba (3) to Landing Beaches 6 Miles South

In fact, the view from Achi Baba is disappointing, with Commodore Roger Keyes, chief of staff to the admirals commanding the British Fleet, later commenting that it was "an unpleasant shock to us to find that the forts we had hoped to destroy, with the assistance of observation from Alcitepe [Achi Baba] were not even visible from that gigantic fraud" (Keyes, reported in Ekins 2001, p.11). 

Fort at Kilid Bahr (4), 7 Miles North of Achi Baba (3)

Although it became an obsession of the Allied General Staff, Achi Baba was never captured.  Instead, a series of bloody set piece, frontal-assault battles for the village of Krithia [farther west] and Achi Baba beyond ensued through the summer months, aided by inadequate land based artillery and often ineffective naval gunfire over the supposedly inviting open glacis provided by the terrain at Helles. Stalemate was achieved some 50 m in front of Krithia and remained there until the final Allied withdrawal from the peninsula in January 1916.

From: "Six VC’s Before Breakfast: Terrain and the Gallipoli Landings," 25 April 1915, by Peter Doyle

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