Book Review — Defending Gallipoli: The Turkish Story

Defending Gallipoli by Harvey Broadbent

Defending Gallipoli: The Turkish Story by Harvey Broadbent is the history of the Gallipoli invasion from the Turkish side. Broadbent is a leading authority on Turkey and its history. Since 2005 he has been using his expertise as a Senior Research Fellow and Associate Professor at Macquarie University where he directed the Gallipoli Centenary Research Project, a partnership between the university, the Australian War Memorial and the ARC He is also the author of Gallipoli: the Fatal Shore, The Boys Who Came Home: Recollections of Gallipoli, and Voices of the First World War.

World War I history is commonly thought of as the Western Front. England, France, Germany, and later the US. There is little information on the Eastern Front — Russia, Austria-Hungary, Italy, Bulgaria, Romania, and Germany. The Ottoman Empire is mentioned occasionally, and probably remembered by most as “The sick old man of Europe.” The Ottoman Empire did control the Dardanelles Straight which was Russia’s access to the Mediterranean Sea. Historically, Russia had designs on Istanbul and it became Russia’s crusade to take back the “holy land” of Eastern Rome. Militarily, an effective warm water port and access to the Mediterranean was the goal.

The Ottoman Empire began moving closer to Germany and distancing itself from Britain. Germany helped the “Young Turks” rebuild its army, but two modern battleships were being built for the Ottoman’s by the British. Once the war broke out, Britain took control of the ships they were building for the Ottomans. Germany provided two cruisers to gain influence with the Ottomans. This eventually lead to the Allied intervention at Gallipoli.

Gallipoli did see the rise of two important figures in the 20th century. Although Gallipoli would turn out to be a failure for the Allies. Britain’s First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, would rise to fame. Secondly, a man on the Ottoman side would rise to power. He would take a primarily Moslem country and formed a modern, secular democracy and bring his country into the Western fold. That man was Lieutenant Colonel Mustafa Kemal. He will become better known as Ataturk.

Broadbent using years of research of original Turkish documents reconstructs the eight-month siege through the eyes and reports of the defenders. He gives a landing by landing, battle by battle, and hill by hill account. There is more detail in this book than in many other books covering the entire war. Gallipoli was no small skirmish. The Ottomans suffered a quarter million casualties (86,692 deaths) and the allies 141,547 casualties (44,150 deaths). The allied forces were primarily British, French, and Australian, with support from New Zealand, India, and New Foundland.

The amount of death and the bloodiness of the battles would have little effect on the war. The Dardanelles did not prove to be the strategic point it was thought to be. This is especially true after Russia left the war. The research provided inDefending Gallipoli is extensive and in a Western-centric world it is important to look at the other views. Here is on instance where the victors did not write the commonly held history. Outstanding research.

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