Why were the Australian and New Zealand troops sent to Gallipoli?
In the history of the Great War, the Gallipoli campaign made no large mark. The number of dead, although horrific, pales in comparison with the number that died in France and Belgium during the war. But for New Zealand, along with Australia and Turkey, the Gallipoli campaign played an important part in fostering a sense of national identity.
The British were keen to find ways to break the German lines. Superior sea power seemed to be the answer. The First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, suggested several ways to use British naval resources. One of these was an assault on the Dardanelles.
Churchill quickly ordered a bombardment of the forts guarding the Narrows. This operation, carried out before Great Britain formally declared war on the Ottoman Empire, reminded the Turks of the threat to the Dardanelles. They improved defenses, including laying minefields.
As early as November 1914, Churchill had suggested an attack on Gallipoli. His fellow members of the War Council, which decided British strategic issues, rejected his plan as too risky. The stalemate and the actions of the Ottoman Empire led the council to rethink their position.
The Turks were advancing northwards in the Caucasus, and Russia called for assistance
. Russian forces soon drove the Turks back, but the mood in the War Council swung Churchill's way. There were other potential advantages of the suggested attack. The Balkan states might attack Austria-Hungary from the south-east, and a campaign in the Eastern Mediterranean might encourage Italy to enter the war on the Allied side.
Even before the naval attack started, the War Council had decided to support it with military forces. General Sir Ian Hamilton was put in charge of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. By the timehe arrived in the region on 17 March, there were doubts about the naval strategy. Events of 18 March confirmed these, and Hamilton soon shifted the emphasis to a military operation.
A landing was now proposed, and it was expected that the Turkish defenders would oppose it. The aim would be to capture the Kilid Bahr plateau. From herethe Turkish positions that dominated the sea approaches on both sides of the strait could be destroyed. Once that was done, the naval operation could proceed.
Hamilton's forces gathered in Egypt. There were about 75,000 men in the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. They came from France, the United Kingdom and other parts of the British Empire. The Anzacs were among these