In the early days of World War I, the Entente (or Allied) powers sought to knock the Ottoman Empire out of the conflict by taking Constantinople, 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 Dardanelles. 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.
During the first months of the campaign the Allied forces were hampered by a lack of accurate maps of the Gallipoli Peninsula’s dangerously rugged terrain. They eventually managed to capture a complete six-part series of excellent, newly published Ottoman surveys showing each sector of the battle theatre. These maps were rushed to the map department of the Intelligence Office (later the famed ‘Arab Bureau’) in Cairo, where they were translated, enlarged and improved by a team headed by Lieutenant T.E. Lawrence, later known ‘Lawrence of Arabia’. These maps were printed by the Survey Department, Egypt, in a series of six interconnecting maps, although each map could act as a complete stand-alone work in-and-of-itself (a geographic key to all six maps is present on the verso of the present map).
The first sets of the Cairo maps were given to Allied commanders in the field mere moments before their ill-fated ‘August Offensive’ (August 6-21, 1915), whereby they mounted a series of large-scale advances against the Ottoman lines, only to be repelled with severe casualties. Nevertheless, the new maps were considered vitally useful and largely solved the operational problems suffered by the Entente troops early in the campaign; they ensured that a bad situation was perhaps not much worse. A second edition of the maps was promptly issued in Cairo and dispatched to Gallipoli as the campaign dragged on into another months-long stalemate.
It should be noted that early on during the August Offensive, the Ottomans captured a set of the maps printed in Cairo and marvelled at how their own supposedly ‘secret’ geographical intelligence was adopted and disseminated by the other side. From that point onwards, the maps were greatly admired as the highest quality and certainly the most interesting printed maps used in the field during the entire campaign. For decades thereafter, Gallipoli veterans and historians have held the maps in particular esteem.
The present map, entitled ‘Kurija Dere’ is the most important single map in the Cairo series, as it showcases the critical Ari Burnu combat sector, not only labelling ‘Anzac Cove’, the scene of the epic Australian and new Zealand landing on April 25, 1915, but also the entire theatre of the battles of Lone Pine and Chunuk Bair, key events of the August Offensive. The Ari Burnu sector was not only the scene of the ANZACs most daring and brave stands but was also where Ottoman Colonel Mustafa Kemal (later the legendary Turkish leader ‘Atatürk’) first won global fame.
Importantly, the present map, while one of a six-part series of interconnecting Gallipoli maps, is a complete work in-and-of itself. In fact, for security reasons, officers in the field were often requested to only possess the map(s) of the specific sectors in which they were operating; as it followed that if they were captured, it was best that additional maps not fall unnecessarily into enemy hands (for example an officer fighting in Ari Burnu had no need to carry a map of the distant Cape Helles sector). For this reason, the six maps in the Gallipoli series printed in Cairo are only rarely found together. Moreover, the present example of the map is of the second edition, in that it was issued during late summer or early autumn of 1915, while the Gallipoli Campaign was still ongoing. It is distinguished from the first edition of July 1915 by the inclusion of another translation of the title in brackets following the original title: ‘Kurija Dere (Koja Dere)’.
The present map is an advanced topographical rendering of the Ari Burnu sector (named after the sea point located in the centre of the map), in the north-western part of the Gallipoli Peninsula. The map is named ‘Kurija Dere’, transliterated from the Ottoman name of the map, after the village on the right side of the work (today spelled ‘Kocadere’). In most aspects, the Cairo-printed map closely follows its Ottoman antecedent map that was published earlier the same year. All headlands and many key ridges are labelled, as are all roads, trails, creeks and rivers, while forested arears are filled in green, while the coasts of the Aegean Sea form a powdery blue arc, as some bathymetric soundings are included offshore. Notably, the map accurately renders the radically varied elevation of the landscape through contour lines (at ten-metre intervals), while spot heights of summits are given in metres. The map gives one a clear understanding of the extreme difficulty that both the ANZAC’s and the Ottoman defenders faced while operating in such incredibly rugged territory; soldiers often had to climb slopes of over 45° in gradient while enduring heavy enemy fire.
The printed map features important additions from its Ottoman antecedent in that it adds some names given by the Allies to locations where their forces made their first landed in the area in April 1915 (the first edition of the present map did not appear until July of the same year), most notably ‘Anzac Cove’, ‘Hell Spit’, ‘Brighton Beach’ and ‘Maclagan’s Ridge’. Importantly, the map also features the addition of a series of red numbered grids, all orientated to the magnetic north, to aid the use of the map in the field (Allied troops previously encountered severe orientation problems using the old maps of Gallipoli). The text panel to the right of the map explains, in both English and French (French soldiers fought alongside the British and the ANZACS), how to use the grid reference as well as providing chart for converting feet to metres, plus a helpful ‘Reference’ translating Turkish topographical terms into English.
The Critical Role of Cartography in the Gallipoli Campaign
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.
In planning the Gallipoli Campaign, the British high command severely underestimated the skill and resolve of the Ottoman defenders; they expected to quickly bulldoze what was they anticipated to be mediocre opposition. Accordingly, they were amazingly ignorant of the both the topography of the Gallipoli Peninsula as well as the hydrography of the surrounding seas.
The fascinating role of cartography during the Gallipoli Campaign, which prominently features the present map, is brilliant explained in the chapter entitled ‘Lawrence at Gallipoli’, in Haluk Oral’s Gallipoli through Turkish Eyes (Istanbul, 2012), an absolute ‘must-read’ book for anyone interested in the WWI in the Near and Middle East.
At the begging of the Gallipoli Campaign, the best hydrographic work that the Allies possessed of the region was a 1908 chart of the waters around the Gallipoli Peninsula and the Dardanelles, that while based on recent Admiralty surveys, soon proved to have horrific flaws that unnecessarily endangered ships and troops landings. As for territorial mapping, the Entente powers relied upon a reprint of French map dating from the Crimean War (1853-6)! This chart was both astoundingly inaccurate and done to a relatively small scale of 1:50,000, ensuring that its use was probably more dangerous than not using any map at all!
The Allies originally hoped to secure control of the Gallipoli Peninsula through a naval operation, launching a barrage of Ottoman positions from numerous vessels beginning on March 18, 1915. This design was an absolute failure, in part due to the faulty charts and maps which often ensured that the Allies vessels had little clue as to where they manoeuvred or took aim.
As the frightful quality of the existing maps became apparent to the British high command, they sent airplanes to make a photographic reconnaissance of Gallipoli, resulting in a new 3-sheet map of the peninsula and the Dardanelles region, done to scale of 1:40,000. While an improvement over the 60-year old French map, it still proved inadequate, especially as aerial reconnaissance was a new, imperfect science, while the scale of the map was still too small for operational sue.
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 north-western 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.
Back to cartography, the Ottomans, who had in the last generation attained stellar military mapping capabilities, had prepared an excellent new set of maps of the Gallipoli Peninsula. Anticipating an Entente attack upon the Dardanelles, Ottoman engineers had mapped the area to an amazingly high degree of accuracy and to a large scale fit for operational utility. The General Staff of the Ottoman Army printed in Constantinople a set of six interconnecting maps, to a uniform scale of 1:25,000
While the new set of Ottoman maps had not been printed in time for the April 25, 1915 Entente landings, we know that they were made available to local Ottoman commanders shortly thereafter. A letter dated May 14, 1915, from Lieutenant Colonel Mustafa Kemal, a senior Ottoman commander in the Ari Burnu sector, addressed to his officers, notes that he had just received ten sets of the maps from Constantinople. The maps were to be given only to senior officers, while special measures were to be taken to ensure that they were not captured by the enemy. Should that happen, the hitherto geographically confused Allies would be handed a tremendous gift.
However, the unexpectedly viscous and protracted nature of the fighting upon the heights of Ari Burnu ensured that supposedly ‘impregnable’ positions were overrun. On May 19, 1915 – only four days after Colonel Kemal received the maps from the General Staff – a detachment of Australians captured a partial set of maps from a wounded Turkish officer, while another partial set was likewise captured by another Allied force near Cape Helles.
The British high command immediately realized the extreme quality and practical value of the captured Ottoman maps, and after making some improvised copies for their own immediate operational use, had the maps sent by express to Cairo, the nearest British base with the facilities to translate, edit and reproduce enough copies to serve senior Entente commanders at Gallipoli.
Fortunately, in December 1914, Lieutenant T.E. Lawrence (1888 – 1935), an eccentric and insubordinate, yet extraordinary brilliant, junior officer was placed in charge of the map department at the newly formed Intelligence Office in Cairo (later known as the famed ‘Arab Bureau). Lawrence had previously gained valuable experience mapping the Sinai Peninsula, and was a stellar cartographer with a gift for languages.
Beginning in June 1915, under Lawrence’s oversight, the captured set of Ottoman maps of Gallipoli was enlarged (to scale of 1:20,000) and translated with new toponyms such as ‘Anzac Cove’. Moreover, as troops in the field had a terrible time finding their way with the old maps, sets of red quadrants were added to the maps orientated towards the magnetic north, while detailed text panels, in both English and French, were added, explaining how to use the navigational quadrants, as well as providing translations of Turkish topographical terms. As shown on the key on the verso of the present map, the Intelligence Branch produced a complete set of six maps in line with the Ottoman antecedents, they are as follows: ‘Anafarta Sagir’; ‘Kurija Dere’; ‘Damler’; ‘Krithia’; ‘Chanak’; and ‘Boghali’.
The Allied command planned another large-scale land offensive somewhere upon the Gallipoli Peninsula, at some point soon. In line with Lawrence’s insubordinate streak, the first shipment of maps from Cairo to Gallipoli include only the maps for Cape Helles and Çanakkale, reflecting the young lieutenant’s strong opinion that the Entente forces should make a landing in the latter location (he supposedly did not include the other sheets in order to dissuade a landing in these areas, including Ari Burnu). However, the generals had other ideas and placed pressure on the Intelligence Office to immediately forward sets including all six sector maps. Amazingly the complete sets were not received in Gallipoli until the very eve of the planned landings.
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’ 6-7,000.
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.
Returning to the maps sent to the Entente commanders from Cairo, they received high praise, in that the ‘captured’ Ottoman cartographic knowledge proved very helpful in allowing the Allies to correctly navigate the terrain, making whatever advances, however fleeting, they were able to gain.
While the Entente commanders had given their officers orders to guard against the capture of the maps, like those given by Kemal to his troops, perhaps predictably, it was not long into the August Offensive that the Ottomans gained a complete set of the maps printed in Cairo. The Ottomans were amazed that not only had their maps been captured, but that such great efforts had been made to translate, edit and improve their work for the use of Entente officers. The Turkish fascination with the maps produced in ‘Lawrence of Arabia’s workshop’ ensured that they became, and remain to this day, legendary artefacts from a watershed moment in world history.
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.
While the Allied high command had initially predicted that the August Offensive would quickly end the fighting in Gallipoli (with the Entente forces advancing upon Constantinople!), as this did not pan out, the Allies soon ran out of copies of the sector maps. The map room of the Intelligence Office in Cairo was therefore asked to create another (still small) printing of the maps which were the same as the former, save for some minor adjustments. For instance, the present work is of the second edition of the ‘Kurija Dere’ map and is the same as the former issue save for the addition of another transliteration of the of the title, given in brackets beside the established title, ‘(Koja Dere)’. These second editions of the map arrived in Gallipoli sometime in the late summer or early autumn of 1915.
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: National Library of Australia: MAP G7431.S65 s20.; Mc Master University Library (Hamilton, Canada): 231WW1MAP; OCLC: 429730511; Haluk ORAL, Gallipoli through Turkish Eyes (Istanbul: Bahçeşehir University Press, 2012), chapter: ‘Lawrence at Gallipoli’, pp. 219-37.