Contested Ground

As the centenary of the Gallipoli Campaign of 1915 approaches, controversy and debate continues over the campaign’s origins and its strategic basis, its tactical shortcomings and outcomes, the lost opportunities and the responsibility for failure.


Photograph from the front cover of Gallipoli: a ridge too far. Two weeks before the August offensive begins, Captain C.E.W. Bean, Australia’s official war correspondent, and later official historian, views the distant heights of Walker’s Ridge, the Sphinx and Plugge’s Plateau from a deep communication trench above North Beach, 26 July 1915. Bean was wounded by a rifle bullet on 7 August during the Australian and New Zealand assaults on the Sari Bair ridge. Photo reference: Australian War Memorial P51581


As allied operations stalled on the peninsula, criticism of the Gallipoli campaign’s political and military mismanagement first erupted in the British parliament in mid-1915. Six months after the evacuation from Gallipoli in July 1916, the British government announced the Dardanelles Special Commission. The official commission of enquiry received evidence from some 200 witnesses over the following twelve months.

Witnesses testified to confused strategic planning, chaotic administrative arrangements, inadequate logistics support and the bungled operations that had led to the loss of tens of thousands of lives.

The Dardanelles Special Commission’s final report – not published until after the war – contained the conclusion that ‘from the outset the risks of failure (of) the expedition outweighed its chance of success.’

Over time, however, many refused to accept that the Gallipoli campaign had been disastrously conceived and offered no realistic shortcut to victory. To supporters, the campaign offered a viable alternative strategy to the trench warfare deadlock and terrible slaughter on the Western Front. Proponents would claim that, with its failure, many larger opportunities had been lost.

Later assessments are more sober in their conclusions. As records became available, extensive research has been conducted. The influence of the Gallipoli campaign on the course of First World War and the necessity of the campaign, has been questioned.

Debate and Scrutiny

With widely diverging views over the significance and impact of the campaign, Gallipoli remains the subject of intense debate and scrutiny. The overall strategy, the amphibious landings and the protracted occupation of the peninsula is the general focus. Often overlooked is the August offensive that became the pivotal turning point of the struggle, with the largest and most sustained battles of the entire campaign.

The August Offensive

An all-out attempt to break the deadlock on the peninsula and force a decisive victory was launched by Australian, British, Indian and New Zealand troops in early August 1915. The August offensive resulted in failure and loss on both sides.

Debate continues over the strategy and planning of the August offensive, the conduct of its multiple operations, the opportunities for success, and the causes of failure in what became the last gamble for the allies.

Some argue that these costly attacks were a lost opportunity. Others maintain that the outcomes were simply inevitable.


Photograph: Australian soldiers in Turkish trenches at Lone Pine, captured on the afternoon of 6 August 1915. The fierce battle for possession of Lone Pine (Turkish: Kamlisirt or ‘Bloody Ridge’) continued until 10 August. Photo reference: Australian War Memorial A02022


Many questions remain about the tactics employed, the capabilities, leadership and actions of allied commanders, the supporting role of the allies, and the responses of Turkish commanders and troops.

In this volume Gallipoli: a ridge too far, international historians bring renewed multinational perspectives to the above, and related, intriguing questions. The memory and enduring impact of Gallipoli is explored.

The contributor’s chapters for Gallipoli: a ridge too far, were originally presented at the Australian War Memorial in August 2010 at an international conference marking the 95th anniversary of the August offensive. Their generous participation in that event and this work is appreciated. This book is the result of many people’s collaboration and assistance, and all support has been invaluable in helping to complete this vivid, informative and highly readable publication.

The text above is a summary of editor Ashley Ekins’ preface of Gallipoli: a ridge too far.

Contents of Gallipoli: a ridge too far



Maps and tables

Notes on measurements and Turkish names

Chronology of the Gallipoli campaign

Introduction: ‘… the most ghastly and costly fiasco’, Ashley Ekins

Part 1 : Strategies and plans

1 The hand of history, Robin Prior

2 The August offensives in British Imperial Grand Strategy, Stephen Badsey

3 A ridge too far: the obstacles to allied victory, Ashley Ekins

Part 2 : The Anzac breakout battles

4 By bomb and bayonet: the attacks from Lone Pine to the Nek, Peter Burness

5 ‘I thought I could command men’: Monash and the assault on Hill 971, Peter Pedersen

6 ‘From the uttermost ends of the earth’: the New Zealand battle for Chunuk Bair, John Tonkin-Covell

Part 3 : Enemies and allies

7 ‘There will be no retreating’: Turkish soldiers’ reactions to the August offensive, Kenan Çelik

8 ‘Only 1 per cent of our own strength’: German military command in the Gallipoli campaign and the impact of the Ottoman alliance on German strategy, Holger Afflerbach

9 ‘No room for any lapses in concentration’: Ottoman commanders’ responses to the August offensive, Harvey Broadbent

10 The French on Gallipoli and observations on Australian and British forces during the August offensive, Elizabeth Greenhalgh and Colonel Frédéric Guelton

11 Their mercenary calling: the Indian army on Gallipoli, 1915, Rana Chhina

12 Supplying the offensive: the role of allied logistics, Rhys Crawley

Part 4 : Legacies

13 Walking the ground: Gallipoli revisited, 1919, Janda Gooding

14 Gallipoli: foreshadowing future conflicts, Robert O’Neill


Suggested further reading



Specifications of Gallipoli: A Ridge Too Far



Name: Gallipoli: A Ridge Too Far

Editor: Ashley Ekins

Hardback Price Australia: $49.99

Size: 242 x 184 mm or 9½ x 7¼ in

Pages: 336 pages, full colour throughout, with photographs and maps

ISBN: 978 1 921966 00 2
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