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Intro First Battle of Krithia (28 April 1915).

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Mal Murray View Drop Down
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    Posted: 30 Sep 2010 at 20:20
Introduction to the First Battle of Krithia
 
 
The First Battle of Krithia was the first Allied advance of the Battle of Gallipoli during World War I. Starting at Helles on April 28, three days after the initial landings, the attack broke down due to poor leadership and planning, lack of communications and exhaustion and demoralisation of the troops.
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Prelude

Map of the Helles war zone in 1915

On the morning of April 25, 1915 the British 29th Division under the command of Major General Aylmer Hunter-Weston landed on five beaches around Cape Helles at the southern tip of the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey. The main landings at 'V' and 'W' Beaches were hotly contested and the British suffered heavy casualties. A supporting landing made at 'Y' Beach on the Aegean coast to the north was made without opposition but the troops were without instructions so made no attempt to either advance or dig in. At that time, the first-day objectives of the village of Krithia and the nearby hill of Achi Baba were virtually undefended. When Turkish reinforcements arrived the British were forced to evacuate the 'Y' Beach landing and so a major opportunity of early success was lost.

After heavy fighting the British were able to secure the main landings. The French Corps expéditionnaire d'Orient division which had made a diversionary landing at Kum Kale on the Asian shore of the Dardanelles on April 25 had now moved across the straits to Helles to hold the right of the Allied line. By the afternoon of April 27 the Allies were able to make an advance of about two miles up the peninsula towards Krithia in readiness for an assault on the following day.

The ferocity of the Turkish defence of the landings led the British to grossly overestimate the opposition they faced. Believing at the time that the Turks were indifferent fighters, they assumed they were faced by two divisions whereas in reality they outnumbered the Turks 3 to 1 and were confronted by two weak regiments who resisted doggedly while waiting for reinforcements.

Battle

The battle commenced around 8 a.m. on April 28 with a naval bombardment. The plan of advance was for the French to hold position on the right while the British line would pivot, capturing Krithia and assailing Achi Baba from the south and west.

The overly complex plan was poorly communicated to the brigade and battalion commanders of the 29th Division who would make the attack. Hunter-Weston remained far from the front and so was not able to exert any control as the attack developed.

The initial advances were easy but as pockets of Turkish resistance were encountered, some stretches of the line were held up while others kept moving, thereby becoming outflanked. The further up the peninsula the troops advanced, the more difficult the terrain became as they encountered the four great ravines that ran from the heights around Achi Baba towards the cape.

On the extreme left the British ran into Gully Ravine which was as wild and confusing as the ground at Anzac Cove. Two battalions of the 87th Brigade (1st Border Regiment and 1st Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers) entered the ravine but were halted by a machine gun post near 'Y' Beach. No further advance would be made up the ravine until the 1st and 6th Gurkha Rifles would capture the post on the night of May 12-13. This involved them going up a 300 ft vertical slope which had defeated both the Royal Marine Light Infantry and the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. The site became knowning as 'Gurkha Bluff'.

The exhausted, demoralised and virtually leaderless British troops could go no further in the face of stiffening Turkish resistance. In places Turkish counter-attacks would drive the British back to their starting positions. By 6 p.m. on April 28 the attack was called off.

Aftermath

14,000 Allied troops participated in the battle, suffering 3,000 casualties[1]. The scale and duration of the battle was minor compared to later fighting but the First Battle of Krithia was one of the most significant of the campaign as it proved that the original British assumption of a swift victory over an indifferent enemy was grossly mistaken. Thereafter Helles would become the scene of numerous attrition battles and success would be measured by an advance of a hundred yards or the capture of a trench.

References

  1. ^ The First Battle of Krithia, 1915 accessed 29 May 2010
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