review first posted at www.boomerangbooks.com.au
Here in Australia we are more used to seeing books on Gallipoli presenting a much more Anzac-centric focus on the Dardenelles campaign of 1915. It comes as a surprise to some to learn that the Australian and New Zealand troops were just one part of the multi-national Mediterranean Task Force and greatly outnumbered by British troops. Also making up the force were French, Indian and even troops from New Foundland (although the latter do not get a mention from Hart).
It is also not as well appreciated as it should be in Australia that the landing on April 25th, 1915 at Gaba Tepe, which later became known as Anzac Cove, was just one of a number of landings on the Gallipoli peninsula, both real and diversionary. Anzac Cove was also far from the worst of the landings - that dubious honour is held by the British landing further down the peninsula at V Beach.
Something that really struck me in this account was just what a great job the Turks did, particularly in the confusion of that first day. The invaders were often held up by far fewer numbers of troops who admittedly held the high ground yet were not that well equipped. The fire discipline of some of those units lead some of the attackers to believe that they were facing machine guns when the few Turkish machine guns were not brought into the line later in the day, depending on where the need was believed greatest. At one point a British advance was held up by the sight of a line of Turkish troops, laying on the ground ahead of them. If only they had realised that the Turks were out of ammunition and only had the bayonets left to fight with.
Hart is far more condemnatory of British planning and conduct of the campaign than is often the case with British researchers and authors. He also condemns aspects of the Anzac landing, while still paying the compliment of how remarkable was the grimly determined Australian and New Zealand grasp on their toehold.
It was also interesting to read some accounts by British seaman that shed some light on a significant aspect that greatly increased the confusion of the Anzac landing.
While this book does not flow or read as well as say, Les Carlyon's Gallipoli, it is far from the dry read that you might expect from a professional historian. For anyone with an interest in the larger picture of the Gallipoli campaign, this title is definitely worth a look.