In the early days of World War I, the Entente powers sought to knock the Ottoman Empire out of the conflict by taking Istanbul, by way of the Dardanelles. They mounted the Gallipoli Campaign (February 17, 1915 – January 9, 1916), during which a force of 490,000 British, Indian, Australian, New Zealander and French troops made various landings upon the Gallipoli Peninsula which strategically guarded the mouth of the straits. The 325,000 Ottoman defenders, backed by German forces, successfully repelled these raids, in what was one of the most hard-fought and bloody military contests in World history.
The present map depicts most of the Gallipoli Peninsula, that guarded the Dardanelles, as well as and good part of the adjacent coasts of Eastern Thrace and Anatolia; the only part of the Gallipoli theatre the map omits is the southern tip of the peninsula, the Cape Helles-Krithia sector. The map is a separately issued sheet from a colossal sectional survey made over many years for the Erkan-ı Harbiye-i Umumiye (the General Staff of the Ottoman Army), which embraced all of the Ottoman Balkans and much of Anatolia. Based upon the latest surveys, at scale of 1:200,000, the map was intended to guide strategic planning (the overall deployment of military forces), as opposed to operational purposes, which would have required maps of a much larger scale. With text entirely in Ottoman Turkish, the map features all the attributes of a modern European military survey, with shading expressing areas of elevation; green spaces identifying forested areas; the coasts, rivers, ravines and swamps are clearly delineated; and all villages, forests, roads, and lighthouses are precisely marked.
The present map was issued during the First Balkan War (October 8 – May 30, 1913), during which the Ottomans lost nearly all their European territories to an alliance of various Balkan counties. At the height of the conflict, the Ottomans were compelled to dedicate vast resources to defending the Gallipoli area from an anticipated Greek and Bulgarian landing. As it turned out, the landing never transpired; however, there area was the vicinity of intense naval warfare.
Geographic knowledge of the battle theatre is always a key factor in the success of an army; however, this was perhaps nowhere truer than during the Gallipoli Campaign, where the terrestrial operations were fought upon an extreme topography of a rocky, largely barren peninsula of steep ridges and deep, irregular ravines. A lack of complete and precise knowledge of this challenging landscape was a critical factor in the outcome of many operations during the campaign and was responsible for thousands of casualties.
At the beginning of the Gallipoli Campaign, the present map remained one of the best maps available to Ottoman and German commanders for strategic planning in the mid and northern sectors of Gallipoli. It would not be superseded until new, improved maps arrived in theatre from Istanbul in May 1915 (well after the commencement of land operations). Importantly, though, the new maps sent from headquarters were considered highly classified and were only distributed to a small circle of commanders, as such the present map would have remained in active use throughout the campaign.
The Present Map’s Manuscript Additions
Importantly, the present example of the map shows clear evidence that it was used by Ottoman officers during the action at Gallipoli. The upper western part of the Gallipoli Peninsula (in the lower left quadrant of the map) features the Ari Burnu-Anafarta Sagir sectors of the campaign, which along with the Cape Helles-Krithia sector (to the south, off the map), was the main theatre of the Gallipoli land war.
On April 25, 1915, Entente forces famously landed at ANZAC Cove, whereupon they took a small beachhead of land before becoming bogged down in a ruinously bloody stalemate with the Ottoman defenders. Unable to advance from their small sphere of occupation, the Entente high command launched the ‘August Offensive’ (August 6-21, 1915), another enormous landing of forces in the Ari Burnu-Anafarta Sagir sectors. However, after much bloodshed, the Entente forces were, once again pinned down with upon their small patch of land with little hope of progress. The Entente forces’ inability to break through the Ottoman lines convinced the British to abandon the campaign and to authorize a complete pull-out towards the end of the year.
The present example of the map features wartime manuscript additions. Outlined in the pink crayon that was ubiquitous presence on WWI Ottoman military maps, are the limits of the Ari Burnu-Anafarta Sagir battle sectors that the Entente forces occupied following their landings. Also of note, are two geographical details that only became important during the action at Gallipoli, and which are here added to the map in black pen in Ottoman Turkish, being the critical headland of “Ari Bunru” (near where the ANZACS landed on April 25, 1915) and, to the north, “Suvla koyu” (Suvla Bay), the main place where Entente forces landed during the ‘August Offensive’. While impossible to date precisely, it seems that the manuscript additions were likely added by an Ottoman officer in the late summer or early autumn of 1915, in the wake of both the major Entente landings in the Ari Burnu-Anafarta Sagir sectors.
The manuscript additions make the present map a valuable and unique artifact of the Gallipoli Campaign, as well as providing a fascinating insight into map use during one of the grandest and most frightful showdowns in modern military history. Beyond the manuscript additions, the map is very rare. We have not been able to trace any examples in Western institutions.
The Greatest Debacle: The Gallipoli Campaign
In planning the Gallipoli Campaign, the British high command expected to quickly bulldoze what was they assumed to be mediocre opposition, forcing their way through the Dardanelles and across the Sea of Marmara to take Istanbul, so knocking the Ottoman Empire out of the war. However, the British severely underestimated the skill and resolve of the Ottoman defenders, and they proved to have mediocre understanding of the exceptionally difficult terrain of the battle theatre, which impaired their operations.
The Allies originally hoped to secure control of the Gallipoli Peninsula through a naval operation, launching a barrage upon Ottoman positions from numerous vessels beginning on March 18, 1915. However, this endeavor proved to be total disaster, as their ships were mauled by enemy shore artillery and mines.
With the failure of the naval operations, the Allied powers decided to undertake a land invasion of the Gallipoli Peninsula. Despite the problems to date and the questionable nature of the available cartography, the field commanders promised Whitehall that they would be marching into Constantinople within a fortnight!
On the night of April 25, 1915, the Allied command planned two main landings upon Gallipoli, one near Cape Helles, at the southern end of the peninsula, and other in the Ari Burnu sector along the northwestern coast of the peninsula. Both landings were severely hampered by the inaccuracy or vagueness of the available maps.
Of direct relevance to the present map, the Entente force that landed at Ari Burnu was commanded by General Sir Ian Hamilton and consisted of 78,000 men, mainly ANZACs, backed by a small number of British and French troops. An advance force of 16,000 landed at what would become Anzac Cove, just to the south of the point of Ari Burnu, although this spot was 1.6 km north of the planned landing. While the ANZAC-Entente force fought with incredible bravery and skill, they had to scale expectedly steep terrain, all the while battling tooth-and-nail against Colonel Mustafa Kemal’s 12,000-man force. Problematically, the exiting maps showed the landscape to feature a series of interconnecting ridges, upon which the invaders could conceivably move from peak to peak, although, in reality, these highlands
were interrupted by deep, brush-filled ravines, that were vitally impassable. Against tremendous odds, the Anzac-Entente force managed to gain and hold a beachhead, however, this foothold was much smaller than anticipated. In fact, the local Allied command even considered retreating, until that notion was overruled as it was thought too dangerous to attempt. The other major Allied landing at Cape Helles was similarly unsuccessful.
For the next four months, the Anzac-Entente forces and the Ottomans fought a series of bloody, yet indecisive, maneuverers along the summits and ravines of the Ari Burnu area that resulted in a frightful stalemate.
The Entente high command decided to make a ‘second try’, mounting another large-scale landing, but this time at a point further up the Gallipoli Peninsula. In what became known as the ‘August Offensive’ (August 6-21, 1915), the Allied forces planned a main landing at Suvla Bay, on the far north-western part of the Gallipoli Peninsula, while smaller, diversionary, operations would occur simultaneously in the Ari Burnu sector, to the south.
The main operation at Suvla Bay on August 6 was a complete fiasco, as the force under Lieutenant General Frederick Stopford, barely made it 800 metres inland before being stonewalled by fierce Ottoman resistance.
The principally ANZAC forces fighting in the Ari Burnu sector were more successful, although they endured horrific casualties. At the Battle of Lone Pine (August 6-10, 1915), the ANZACs succeeded in gaining ground from their small beachhead, taking several of the key highlands located on the present map. However, this came at the terrible price of almost 2,300 Entente casualties versus the Ottomans’ 67,000.
The action at Lone Pine dovetailed into the Battle of Chunuk Bair (August 7-19, 1915), which is the focus of the manuscript additions showcased on the present map. In this operation, a force of 12-13,000 largely ANZAC troops surged up the heights of Chunuk Bair where they successful dislodged the advance of Colonel Kemal’s 18,000-man force. Taking the summit on August 8, the present map shows how the Entente force consolidated its gains the following day. However, in an audacious move, Colonel Kemal mounted a counterattack on August 10, dislodging the ANZACs from the summit, driving them a way back towards their original positions. The losses for both sides were astounding, the Entente force suffered 6,000 casualties, while the Ottomans endured 9,200 casualties! Beyond that, the loss at Chunuk Bair was a major blow to the morale of the Allied side, even though the ANZACs were rightly commended for their skill and bravery in what was likely an impossible assignment. The victory at Chunuk Bair, galvanized Mustafa Kemal’s reputation a war hero and military genius. More than any other single event, it sent him on his way to become one of the legendary figures of the 20th Century.
After the failure of the August Offensive, the state of play on the Gallipoli Peninsula returned to a stalemate, in the form of brutal trench warfare, pointless attacks and counterattacks, and the oncoming of chilly, rainy autumn weather.
The astounding human and financial cost of the Gallipoli Campaign, which had produced scarcely any accomplishments for the Entente side, caused the British high command to consider pulling the plug in October 1915. However, this move was delayed for some time, as a full-scale retreat would be a massive loss of face, as well as a blow to Allied morale, coming at bad time when another horrid stalemate had developed in the fields of northern France and Flanders. Yet reality eventually set in. In December 1915, the Entente troops were evacuated in stages from all their positions on the Gallipoli Peninsula, with the last contingent leaving on December 20. The Allied Powers would never again mount a direct attack upon Turkey proper. All Allied ships left the area by January 1916.
The Gallipoli Campaign was one of the greatest fiascos in British military history. Against all expectations, the Ottomans successfully repelled all the Entente attacks, but at the most astounding costs to both sides. The Allies suffered over 300,000 casualties, while the Ottomans endured 250,000 casualties.
The Gallipoli Campaign had an enduring legacy. While it was an epic embarrassment for the British Empire, the extreme bravery and commitment shown by the ANZACs served as a defining moment of national consciousness for both Australia and New Zealand which resonates to the present day.
On the other side, the Gallipoli Campaign is still rightly hailed as one of the great modern achievements of the Turkish people. It made one of the heroes of the campaign, Mustafa Kemal Pasha, into a legend, allowing him to spearhead the creation of the Republic of Turkey out of the ashes of the Ottoman Empire. Kemal, hence known as ‘Atatürk’ served as the nation’s revolutionary founding president for 15 years.
References: N/A; Cf. [Re: the role of maps at Gallipoli] Haluk ORAL, Gallipoli through Turkish Eyes (Istanbul: Bahçeşehir University Press, 2012), pp. 219-37.