The Irish at Gallipoli is a six-part series of podcasts by Dr Jeff Kildea, Keith Cameron Chair of Australian History at University College Dublin in 2014. In this series Dr Kildea examines the part played by the Irish during the Gallipoli campaign, looking in particular at the landing on 25 April, the advance to Krithia between April and July, the August offensive, both at Anzac Cove, when Anzacs and Irishmen fought literally shoulder to shoulder, and at Suvla Bay, and finally the evacuation. Click on the links for transcripts of each individual episode.
The Gallipoli campaign in which thousands of Irishmen fought and died is largely unknown in Ireland. By contrast, in Australia and New Zealand the anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli in Turkey on 25 April 1915 is the focus of national commemorations for those who died in the First World War and all wars and civil conflicts since. Conceived as a naval operation to force a way through the Dardanelles to relieve pressure on Russia and to break the stalemate on the Western Front, the eight-month military campaign ended in defeat, claiming the lives of more than 50 000 soldiers on the Allied side and many more on the Turkish side. This first episode provides an overview of the origins of the Gallipoli campaign and the events leading up to the landing.
Following the failure of the British and French navies to force the Dardanelles and open up an all-year sea route to Russia, the Allies committed 75 000 soldiers to a ground war in an attempt to neutralise the Turkish forts guarding the Dardanelles by attacking them from the landward side. While the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) landed on the Aegean coast half way up the peninsula, Britain’s 29th Division was landed at a series of beaches at Cape Helles at the foot of the peninsula. Among the British Army troops at Helles were Irish regulars of the Dublin Fusiliers, Munster Fusiliers and Inniskilling Fusiliers. This episode looks at the landing on 25 April 1915 and, in particular, the slaughter of the Dublins and Munsters at V Beach.
At the end of the first day of the military campaign at Gallipoli the Allies were ashore at Anzac Cove and Cape Helles. However, they had failed to seize their first day objectives and had only a tenuous toehold on the peninsula. For almost three months the British and French forces at Cape Helles, assisted on one occasion by Australians and New Zealanders from Anzac Cove, fought a series of battles to take the village of Krithia and the high ground behind it, which the British called Achi Baba. These attempts would cost the Allies dearly in casualties and, despite the gain of some ground, the two objectives remained in Turkish hands. This episode looks at the battles for Krithia and the part played in those battles by Irish troops of the 29th Division.
In the series of battles for Krithia from April to July 1915 at Cape Helles the Allies and the Turks had fought each other to a standstill at a great cost in lives. The Allied Commander in Chief Sir Ian Hamilton shifted the focus of the campaign to the Anzac sector in an attempt to break out of the positions which the Anzacs had taken on the day of the landing and where they had remained ever since. The principal aim of the August offensive was to seize the high ground of the Sari Bair range. Among the troops sent to reinforce the Anzacs for the offensive were men of the 29th Brigade of the 10th (Irish) Division. This episode looks at a number of the battles in which the Irish fought alongside the Australians and New Zealanders in the struggle for the heights.
While the principal aim of the August offensive was to capture the heights of the Sari Bair range, the British wished to make a landing at Suvla Bay to secure a base of operations for the forces in the northern sector. Among the soldiers of the British IX Corps landed there were the 30th and 31st Brigades of the 10th (Irish) Division. Later they would be joined by their compatriots in the 29th Division. Despite initial success in the seizure of Chocolate Hill, the Irish would suffer greatly at the hands of determined Turkish defenders and as a consequence of poor leadership and support, including a lack of water in the searing heat of the Gallipoli summer. This episode looks at the battles in the Suvla area in which the Irish fought, including Kiritch Tepe Sirt and Scimitar Hill, and at Hill 60 where Irishmen and Anzacs once again fought alongside each other.
The battles for Scimitar Hill and Hill 60 marked the end of British attempts to advance in the Suvla area. As elsewhere on the Gallipoli peninsula stalemate set in. The remnants of the 10th (Irish) Division were withdrawn at the end of September 1915 and sent to Salonika to fight the Bulgarians. The failure at huge cost to break out of the positions held since April led to a decision to abandon the campaign and evacuate the peninsula. This was done from late December 1915 to early January 1916 without loss of life. The failed Gallipoli campaign had an impact on the emerging nations of Australia, New Zealand and Ireland. For the antipodeans, it was the dawning of their sense of nationhood. For the Irish, however, it was the start of nationalist Ireland’s loss of faith in the belief that support for Britain in the war would ensure home rule. This episode looks at the evacuation and then examines how in post-independence Ireland memory of the campaign and the part which Irish troops played in it faded and was lost until recent years when a new wave of publications has begun to revive that memory for the Ireland of today.
Image: Scene just before the evacuation at Anzac By Unknown or not provided (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.