Inspired by Caro's World War I Centenary post from yesterday, 21 August, regarding HMS Endymion.
21 August 1915
HMS Endymion, Suvla Bay, 2.30pm: Opened fire at 2 of enemy's batteries preparatory to infantry attack http://www.naval-history.net/OWShips-WW1-05-HMS_Endymion2.htm
This short post, and rather minimal log entry regards one of the pivotal moments in global politics, and I feel it deserves a bit of attention.
This salvo was fired at the batteries in range of Scimitar Hill and Hill 60 during the final push of the August Offensive during the Gallipoli Campaign. Endymion's shelling was well aimed, and the batteries destroyed, but the Anzac forces were unable to take the hills, despite intense fighting. After the failure to capture the two strategic hills, General Sir Ian Hamilton began diverting troops from the area to France and Greece, which left too few Anzac forces to hold the region.
Ottoman successes began to sway public opinion in the UK, leading to Hamilton's dismissal, and the eventual evacuation of all Allied forces from the region.
I'll try to keep the rest of the Gallipoli Campaign brief, but it did last for eight and a half months, and we're all aware that I can tend to be a bit long winded (as evidenced by the length of this sentence).
The campaign was launched in April 1915, in an attempt by British and French forces to capture Constantinople (now Istanbul, but that's nobody's business but the Turks
) and secure the Dardanelles to ensure that shipping routes into Russia were kept open. Unfortunately, the naval attack to secure the Dardanelles was repelled, and after 8 months, the ground forces were so decimated that the assault was entirely abandoned, and the invasion force was withdrawn to Egypt.
In Turkey, it's seen as a defining moment in its history; as a final desperate defense of the motherland, even as the Ottoman Empire came crumbling down around them. One of the more distinguished commanders among the Turks was Mustafa Kemal, who would, only eight years later, rise to power as the newly established nation of Turkey's first president.
In Australia and New Zealand, the campaign is sometimes referenced as the dawning of national consciousness, and the date of the landing, 25th April, is now a national holiday known as Anzac Day. It is the single most significant commemoration of veterans and military casualties in those two countries, surpassing even Remembrance Day (formerly Armistice Day). While Australia and New Zealand were both self-governing at the time of the landing, but were not considered sovereign nations until 1942 and 1947 (respectively) when they adopted the Statute of Westminster, and this is directly related (although by no means in its entirety) to the failure and catastrophic loss of life that was the Gallipoli Campaign.
Combining both sides, an estimated half million men died during the eight months of fighting. To put that into perspective, that's 62,500 dead per month, 2,083 per day, 87 per hour, or 1.45 per minute. While this is hardly a staggering number when compared to other battles in the war (particularly the Somme and Verdun) it is still difficult to properly ken the horror that these men endured.
The brutality of the campaign, whose end was effectively sealed when Anzac forces were unable to capture Scimitar Hill and Hill 60 after HMS Endymion's shelling is all but impossible to fully appreciate by those of us who are removed by generations from the fighting there. However, when we look around us, and see our allies, whose countries were born of the ashes of the Allied failure there, we can begin to understand how an eleven word sentence fragment in Endymion's log, while understated, can give historians pause to reflect; to respect the men who sacrificed their lives for goals that were never accomplished, but whose blood fostered the birth of nations.
Side note: Remembrance Day is observed on 11 November, which coincides with other veterans memorial holidays in other nations (notably Veterans Day in the United States) but is not actually related to those holidays, generally speaking. Veterans Day, in particular, while celebrated on the same day, was originally celebrated as Armistice Day, but became a day to respect all U.S. military veterans shortly after World War II. The nearest thing to Remembrance Day that is celebrated in the United States is Memorial Day (formerly Decoration Day, which we see in many of the logs we transcribe here), which is celebrated on the last Monday in May, and was, rather ironically, originally a Confederate holiday, rather than a Union holiday (as it began prior to the end of the American Civil War), although the name wasn't officially co-opted until 1966 when President Johnson (who had an interesting way of purchasing pants, but it isn't really appropriate storytelling for this forum) signed a proclamation declaring Waterloo, New York the birthplace of the holiday (although this is historically unlikely, and still debated among historians in the United States).