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Saturday, May 18, 2019

Battle of Gallipoli ~ a century ago ! - disaster for Allies - visit by Aussie team

Is distance a factor now ! ~ and how was that a century ago !!

On 27 Oct 1914, two former German warships, the Ottoman Yavûz Sultân Selîm and Midilli, still under the command of German officers, conducted the Black Sea Raid, in which they bombarded the Russian port of Odessa and sank several ships.  On 31 October, the Ottomans entered the war and began the Caucasus Campaign against Russia. The British briefly bombarded forts in Gallipoli, invaded Mesopotamia and studied the possibility of forcing the Dardanelles. The Ottoman Empire, literally "The Exalted Ottoman State"; historically known in Western Europe as the Turkish Empire was a state that controlled much of Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa between the 14th and early 20th centuries.  One might wonder what is the relevance to the Cricket World Cup 2019.

Australian fast bowler, Jhye Richardson, was withdrawn from Australia’s World Cup Squad as he continues to recover from the shoulder dislocation he suffered in the UAE in March. After a recent scan and testing with the team’s medical staff, it was determined that Jhye was not going to be ready to bowl at the level required for him to be considered for selection at the start of the World Cup.     Australia's squad of : Aaron Finch (c), Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey (wk), Nathan Coulter-Nile, Pat Cummins, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, David Warner, Adam Zampa have traversed 15000 odd kilo meters from Australia to England for the cup .. .. and they had a stopover at a historical place is the subject matter of this post.

Donning casual get-up including baseball caps and compression pants rather than the regular team uniform, Australia's 15-man squad plus support staff retraced the footsteps of their countrymen from more than a century ago. It was a rare extended sojourn from professional routine, and a fair logistical feat given the proximity to their June 1 World Cup opener against Afghanistan in Bristol. Their visit is the first by an Australian cricket team since Steve Waugh's side made the trip ahead of the 2001 Ashes. Pat Cummins and Adam Zampa laid a wreath at the Lone Pine Memorial, with its yellow and peach flowers.. ..

The Gallipoli Campaign,  the Battle of Gallipoli was a campaign of the First World War that took place on the Gallipoli peninsula (Gelibolu in modern Turkey). The Entente powers, Britain, France and the Russian Empire, sought to weaken the Ottoman Empire, one of the Central Powers, by taking control of the straits that provided a supply route to Russia. The invaders launched a naval attack followed by an amphibious landing on the peninsula, to capture the Ottoman capital of Constantinople (Istanbul). The naval attack was repelled and after eight months' fighting, with many casualties on both sides, the land campaign was abandoned and the invasion force was withdrawn. It was a costly and humiliating defeat for the Allies and for the sponsors, especially Winston Churchill.

The campaign was a great Ottoman victory. In Turkey, it is regarded as a defining moment in the history of the state, a final surge in the defence of the motherland as the Ottoman Empire retreated.  The campaign is often considered to be the beginning of Australian and New Zealand national consciousness; 25 April, the anniversary of the landings, is known as ANZAC Day, the most significant commemoration of military casualties and veterans in the two countries, surpassing Remembrance Day (Armistice Day).

After the failure of the naval attacks, troops were assembled to eliminate the Ottoman mobile artillery, which was preventing the Allied minesweepers from clearing the way for the larger vessels. Kitchener appointed General Sir Ian Hamilton to command the 78,000 men of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force.  Soldiers from the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) and New Zealand Expeditionary Force(NZEF) were encamped in Egypt, undergoing training prior to being sent to France.  The Australian and New Zealand troops were formed into the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC), commanded by Lieutenant General Sir William Birdwood, comprising the volunteer 1st Australian Division and the New Zealand and Australian Division.  The  troops, were subsequently placed under Hamilton's command. Over the following month, Hamilton prepared his plan and the British and French divisions joined the Australians in Egypt. Hamilton chose to concentrate on the southern part of the Gallipoli peninsula at Cape Helles and Seddülbahir, where an unopposed landing was expected. The Allies sadly had  discounted the fighting ability of the Ottoman soldiers. The underestimation of Ottoman military potential stemmed from a "sense of superiority" among the Allies, because of the decline of the Ottoman Empire and its poor performance in Libya in 1911 and the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913.

The Allied fleet and British and French troops assembled at Mudros, ready for the landings but poor weather from 19 March grounded Allied aircraft for nine days and on 24 days only a partial programme of reconnaissance flights were possible. Allocated the northern landing, Birdwood's force   was to land and advance inland to cut the lines of communication to the Ottoman forces in the south.  The troops would disembark from the transports into ships' boats and be towed close to the shore by steamboats and then row ashore.  The landing was more difficult, over ground which rose steeply from the beaches, unlike the objective to the south, which was more open. The landing site was garrisoned by only two Ottoman companies but from positions on commanding ground the Ottomans inflicted numerous casualties on the Australians before being overcome.  It was a disaster - ANZAC casualties on the first day numbered around 2,000 men killed or wounded. Casualty figures for the campaign vary between sources but in 2001, Edward J. Erickson wrote that in the Gallipoli Campaign over 100,000 men were killed, including 56,000–68,000 Ottoman and around 53,000 British and French soldiers. Using the Ottoman Archives, Erickson estimated that Ottoman casualties in the Gallipoli Campaign were 56,643 men died from all causes, 97,007 troops were wounded or injured and 11,178 men went missing or were captured.  

Australians and New Zealanders coming from tens of thousands of miles away suffered worst casualties mainly due to poor strategy and lack of knowledge of the conditions.

Anzac Day  is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that broadly commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders "who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations" and "the contribution and suffering of all those who have served".  Observed on 25 April each year, Anzac Day was originally devised to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who served in the Gallipoli Campaign, their first engagement in the First World War(1914–1918).  This is the place now visited by Australian Cricket team

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
18th May 2019.

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