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

Friday, November 13, 2015

100 Years Ago Today: Kitchener Arrives at Gallipoli

In October, with the campaign once again stalled, Hamilton was relieved of command. He was replaced by Sir Charles Monro, who immediately recommended that the Allies should evacuate. War Minister Horatio Kitchener needed to inspect the situation himself.

At about 1:40 p.m. on 13 November 1915 a small boat arrived at North Beach. From it stepped Field Marshal Lord Kitchener, commander-in-chief of the British Army. He had come to Anzac to see the positions there for himself. As he walked up the pier with other generals, he was recognized and men came running from all over towards the pier where they surrounded the great man. Charles Bean watched Kitchener walk up from the pier:

Kitchener Arrives at North Beach, Anzac Sector

The tall red cap [Kitchener] was rapidly closed in among them-but they kept a path and as the red cheeks turned and spoke to one man or another, they cheered him–they, the soldiers—no officers leading off or anything of that sort. It was a purely soldiers’ welcome. He said to them, ‘The King has asked me to tell you how splendidly he thinks you have done—you have done splendidly, better, even, than I thought you would.’

Kitchener spent just over two hours at Anzac surveying the Turkish line from Australian trenches inland of the Sphinx and at Lone Pine. Two days later, after a similar visit to Cape Helles and further consultation with senior commanders, he recommended to the British War Cabinet that Gallipoli–Anzac, Suvla and Helles–be evacuated. Without significant reinforcement and the bringing in of considerable artillery resources, little progress could, in his opinion, be made against the strengthening Turkish trenches. This was especially so at Anzac where a further surprise attack, such as had been conducted in August against Chunuk Bair and the hills around Suvla Bay, was virtually impossible. Moreover, local commanders were extremely worried about the problems of supplying Gallipoli throughout the winter with its many severe storms.

Kitchener Escorted by General Birdwood Visiting the Battlefield

Anzac Cove and Suvla Bay were evacuated in December 1915 and the Helles area was emptied of troops by 9 January 1916. Only a handful of lives were lost, an ironic end to a campaign which had cost the lives of almost 36,000 Commonwealth, 10,000 French, and around 86,000 Turks.

Sources:  Commonwealth War Graves and Gallipoli and the Anzacs Websites

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