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The Classic on Gallipoli
on July 22, 2002
Anything Moorehead wrote was golden, but this is arguably one of his best books. This has been reissued numerous times and it remains a classic. It is particularly good in its description of of the initial naval campaign and the general strategic overview. Although Gallipoli has rightly served as the emblematic battle where it is popularly thought that ANZACS were unduly sacrificed by the British in attempts at vainglory, Moorehead would be the first to acknowledge that there is no evidence that Australians were selected for slaughter over any other troops. The British (and most World War I strategist from all nations) were equal opportunity killers. In reality there were many more British troops committed, and killed, than ANZAC troops, and French losses were also considerable. Moreover the strategic aims were laudable. They were very nearly achieved. The bungling was not in the design, but in the fact that it was allowed to continue long after the jig was up, the British contained on the Penninsula, without a faint hope of forcing the straits with naval power. Moorehead, although an Australian, never bashes the British at all in this book. His exposition of Sir Ian Hamilton is also very incisive and offers a real glimpse into the mind of this man (a commander who felt for his troops, more than most in WWI) The fact that he was sacked, never to wield command in the field, is also testament to the fact that mistakes were made. Churchill's role is less clear. His initial idea was brilliant. He also did not want to commit land troops, thinking it too costly. He believed that the Royal Navy and her allies could force the straits and be shelling Constantinople within days.... And they very nearly did it. Unfortunately as Moorehead recounts, the political pressure of losing large, expensive battleships to mines was a price the British Cabinet would not allow Churchill to indulge and the pressure for a land based campaign therefore rose. It is really a pity because Churchill wanted one more chance to force the straits from the sea. There is every indication that he would have been successful and the costly land war averted. Plus ca change for Churchill.
PS: The cover photograph in this edition actually shows Canadian troops going over the top in a latter Somme Battle. Seems they could have easily found some original British or French pictures from Gallipoli itself??! I guess cover art was more important.