Saturday, April 25, 2015

4/25/1915: The Invasion of Gallipoli

Suleiman The Great
    If it weren't for the disgraceful genocide of Armenians, today would be remembered for one of the most iconic and interesting engagements in The Great War 100 years ago. The invasion of Gallipoli was the last valiant stand of the decaying and grotesque government of the Ottoman Empire. The history of the Ottoman Empire after Suleiman The Great is one fraught with brutality, strangeness, and overwhelming decadence. At one point, the Ottomans had constructed a giant windowless tower called "The Cage" where they would raise future heirs either to rule the empire having no knowledge of the outside world or just end up killing them. It should be clear even to the dumbest historian that the Ottoman Empire was in an unbelievably weak position at the outset of the great war.

French Soldiers landing in the Dardanelles (look at those silly bayonets!)
    This is what makes the Gallipoli campaign so fascinating. The Gallipoli campaign is considered the most tantamount victory of the Ottoman Empire during the Great War. Today Turkey and other former Entante powers are commemorating the centennial, but back then the Allies certainly had nothing to celebrate. The Entante fielded a fearsome force to take Constantinople (before Russia could) that consisted of mostly battle hardened colonial veterans from the British and French empires. The Ottomans at that point had not seen any military successes in years, and their soldiers were fairly inexperienced. The Central Powers at that point fielded a much smaller force (about 300,000 men less) with limited German and Austro-Hungarian assistance.

Albert d' Amade, Commander of the Oriental Expeditionary Corps.
    At this early point in the war, the lessons of the complete drudgery of the western front had not sunken in yet, and one can clearly see that the Allies failed to grasp the realities of modern warfare. At the outset of the war a year before in 1914, the french were still conducting Napoleonic bayonet charges in spite of getting completely torn apart by German machine gunners and snipers. While the topography of the marshes of France eventually came to thwart the Schlieffen plan, the mountainous and difficult terrain of the Dardanelles combined with the efficient and well built entrenchments did the same to the French & British, and led to their eventual decimation and evacuation of Gallipoli.

The Entante has landed! This happened 100 years ago today.
     To commemorate the centennial of the campaign, I have started to play through the Gallipoli campaign in John Tiller's First World War, part of the squad battles series with a friend from the Wargamers Club For Gentlemen (see link to the top right.) I have decided to take the Allies as I want to try to see how the Allies could have went about things differently achieving strategic victory, if not the conquest of Constantinople. On the first turn in the picture above, my forces landed on the shore but were unable to do anything else, going prone wasn't even an option given the depth of the water. As one could expect, this led to some initial brutal casualties. It at once becomes clear that land invasions were indefinitely more difficult before World War 2 and the advent of powerful airborne bombers and fighters. All I could do for the very first turn was stand there and wait to get shot down by machine gun fire. A foreboding opening to my own Gallipoli campaign.

Getting on the beach was not any easier with the Ottoman machine gunners in elevated entrenchments.
    The second round I tried to get as many of my men as far up on the shore as I can while taking some shots at the Ottomans that are within sight. I got lucky on my right flank and managed to pin down one of the machine gunners (notice the "P" furthest to the southwest,) and succeeded in killing a few of them while I was at it. In addition, I was able to move some infantry into one victory location in a section of barbed wire. While moving into that location immediately pinned the squad that took the position, I was able to move in several leaders to rally my men for the next turn.

Slow but steady forward progress.
    On this third turn I continued to make very slow progress up from the coast. The increased elevation is so that I can only move one hex per turn, luckily it seems that my opponent has started to make his forces fall back, I might be eating those words later when I advance in the open and he proceeds to mow me down. It becomes clear that before the invention of tanks, a great deal of responsibility was placed upon the average infantryman. It must have taken a great deal of courage and bravery to expose yourself in the face of relentless gun and artillery fire in order to advance. I took only a few casualties this turn and managed to pin the unit on the north east. Looks for the next post for an update on this campaign.

Dedicated to all who perished and served 100 years ago.

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