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Gallipoli by Peter Hart: new book!

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saunders6116 View Drop Down
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    Posted: 04 Feb 2011 at 13:10

Gallipoli by Peter Hart.

I wanted to share my early thoughts on the latest offering from Peter Hart.
 
This is Hart’s second foray into writing a book on the Gallipoli campaign but from what I can make out so far, uses completely new material to that found in his first book, Defeat at Gallipoli, written with Nigel Steele and published back in 1994.

Gallipoli was new to the bookshelves (or Amazon) a few days ago.  I am over a third of the way through the 500 or so pages but even at this stage thought it worthy of recommendation. 

As some of you will know, Hart’s genre is to use first-hand accounts and weave them into incisive and frank campaign analysis, and very importantly, in a style that is easy to follow and fully understand.  There are extensive references and sources listed.

In the first third of the book I have read so far, Hart has set the political scene that led to the Naval and Army campaigns.  He has dealt with the landings by interlacing British, ANZAC, Turkish and French first-hand accounts, and gives persuasive argument concerning Turkish machine guns on the first day. 

Where I would really like to commend the book is Hart’s use of the first hand accounts; these in combination with his lively narrative make the facts and the experiences of the individual so vivid - and they include both the French and the Turkish experience. If I had one criticism it would be for more detailed maps but that said, for any of us that have been lucky enough to walk the Gallipoli battlefields, Hart’s descriptions of locations and places of combat are very easy to follow.

Sometimes I think Peter Hart can be a bit like Marmite. You either like his style or you don’t (and I'll put my hands-up to being a fan of his writing), but even if you’re in the camp that doesn’t always like the bluntness in what he has to say, I think you will still find this book stimulating, honest and difficult to counter. 

My early thought is that this is a worthy investment for any of us interested in the Gallipoli campaign.

Regards,

Jonathan S

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mal Murray Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Feb 2011 at 16:20
This is a review of the new book by Peter Hart taken from the Irish Tiumes website.
 
 
 

Sent to face the horror of Gallipoli

 
HARMAN MURTAGH

MILITARY HISTORY: Gallipoli By Peter Hart Profile, 534pp. £25

THE GALLIPOLI CAMPAIGN of 1915, a sideshow of the first World War waged by Britain and France against Germany’s ally Turkey, was a total failure that ended in humiliating withdrawal. In eight months it cost 500,000 casualties – killed, wounded, missing and sick – shared about equally between both sides. The Turks at least fell in the successful defence of their homeland; in Peter Hart’s view the Allied soldiers were needlessly sacrificed on a lunatic venture, doomed to failure by muddled strategic thinking, compounded by operational incompetence.

Winston Churchill, first lord of the admiralty, promoted the concept of seizing the Dardanelles as a prelude to the capture of Constantinople, which would knock Turkey out of the war. As final victory depended on defeating the German army on the Western Front, however, it was a mistaken strategy to divert substantial resources to the eastern Mediterranean. True, what Churchill initially had in mind was largely a naval operation, but when this failed the local army commander, Gen Sir Ian Hamilton, eagerly undertook an amphibious landing on the Gallipoli peninsula.

Three precarious bridgeheads were ultimately established: initially at Helles and Anzac Cove, and later at Suvla Bay. All attempts at further advance foundered on the determined Turkish defence of the precipitous terrain. Although poorly equipped, the Turks were good soldiers and well led by the capable German general Liman Von Sanders, with Mustafa Kemal, the rising star of the Turkish army, in command of the forces that bore the brunt of the fighting on the peninsula. The combat was fierce, bloody and frequently hand to hand. Even in the intervals between engagements, snipers and shrapnel exacted an unending toll of casualties. So, too, did disease.

Between 1981 and 2008 Hart was the oral historian at the Imperial War Museum, in Britain. His extensive use of participants’ accounts, often two or even three to a page, is one of the strengths of this enthralling book. The soldiers’ words are skilfully deployed to construct a vivid and compelling narrative that takes the reader through the gamut of military experience. They recount the thrill of battle and its attendant emotions of comradeship, courage and fear; the discomforts of thirst, sleeplessness, extremes of heat and cold, dirt, lice, plagues of flies, primitive latrines and chronic dysentery; the pervasive stench of stale excrement and rotting corpses; the ghastly daily toll of casualties.

Letters of sympathy invariably reassured relatives that their loved ones had died instantly and without pain. The truth, sadly, was often otherwise. A soldier of the Manchester Regiment recalled: “A fellow named Rawlinson was hit by a bomb. It exploded under his chin and blew the whole of his face off from ear to ear and it hung down on his chest, the poor chap was walking about groping his way and making an awful groaning noise, until someone placed an empty sandbag over his head and led him away, he died before night.” Such is the horror and the pity of war.

The Irish were involved at all three bridgeheads. At Helles, on April 25th, the experienced regular battalions of the Dublin and Munster Fusiliers were decimated as they tried to land on the exposed V-Beach. Contrary to traditional accounts, the small party of Turkish defenders had no machine guns. What did the damage was accurate rifle fire, supported by a few quick-firing light cannon.

Among major reinforcements to arrive at Gallipoli in August was the 10th (Irish) Division, composed of newly raised battalions from all the Irish infantry regiments except the Irish Guards. The 10th landed at Suvla Bay, but with no artillery and without one of its brigades – a third of its combat strength – which had been detached to reinforce the Anzacs (Australian and New Zealand forces) down the coast. In Hart’s view Sir Bryan Mahon, a west of Ireland soldier brought out of retirement to form and command the division, would have been a better choice as corps commander at Suvla than the overly cautious Gen Stopford, whose bungling forfeited probably the best chance of Allied success.

There is little enough about the 10th Division. Its only voice is Ivone Kirkpatrick, the future British diplomat, who was a subaltern in the 5th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, which was also the unit of the Meath poet Francis Ledwidge. Irish readers will be disappointed that Hart does not make more use of Irish accounts. Several exist, notably that of Major Bryan Cooper (later a TD), first published in 1918, accompanied by Ledwidge’s three-stanza poem The Irish at Gallipoli. 

A week after it landed the division was uselessly sacrificed in a brave but doomed attack on Kiretch Tepe Sirt ridge, an operation categorised by Hart as “near suicide”. There were thousands of casualties, including more than half the “Dublin Pals”: D Company, 7th Dublin Fusiliers – “the toffs in the toughs” – formed mostly from rugby-playing professional and university men. The 29th Brigade, detached to support the Anzacs, also suffered heavy losses. Ledwidge, who is not mentioned by Hart, survived Gallipoli only to be killed on the Western Front.

The Allies finally evacuated Gallipoli in December. Hart is incisive on the reasons for the British defeat: “Endemic military incompetence at command and staff level . . . lethally combined with troops that had little or no experience of modern warfare.” Artillery was inadequate and the capability of the Turkish army grossly underestimated. Hamilton and most of his subordinate generals were sacked, as was Winston Churchill. Mustafa Kemal went on to forge the modern state of Turkey out of the ashes of the Ottoman Empire. Gallipoli was a defining moment on Australia’s path to nationhood.

The 4,000 Irish dead, for too long airbrushed from the Irish historical narrative, were finally accorded public recognition in 2010, when President Mary McAleese dedicated a plaque to their memory at Green Hill War Cemetery, near Suvla Bay. For those, like this reviewer, privileged to be present, the dignified ceremony amid the ordered rows of headstones was solemn, sombre and intensely moving.


Harman Murtagh is a visiting fellow at Athlone Institute of Technology and president of the Military History Society of Ireland

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Lone Pine Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Feb 2011 at 19:24
I actually bought this book yesterday at Who Do You Think You Are Exhibition and have it signed by the author himself, and I must say I am enjoying it very much so far, don't think I have read as much as Saunders, but really good and easy to understand, which is must for me Approve

Edited by Lone Pine - 27 Feb 2011 at 19:26
Grandaughter of William Pritchard KIA Lone Pine
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote saunders6116 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Mar 2011 at 13:41
The unsigned copies are really quite rare!!   Beer
 
In all seriousness, Peter Hart's book has eclipsed Tim Travers account of the same name as my "must have" single volume history of the Gallipoli campaign. 
 
Regards,
 
Jonathan S


Edited by saunders6116 - 03 Mar 2011 at 13:45
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Bunhill Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Jul 2011 at 16:56
I am half way through the book,and as Lone Pine says,its easy to understand.
But i must say the half i have read as left me shaking my head at the complete shambles that the landings were.
Rifleman 1648 William Hannan KIA 18-8-1915 Remembered.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mal Murray Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Nov 2011 at 14:52
The following is a review of the book published in the Washington times
 

GALLIPOLI
By Peter Hart
Oxford University Press, $34.95, 534 pages, illustrated

 
''Whether success or failure attends you," wrote British admiral Sir Edward Seymour in the late 19th century, "England nearly always approves an officer who has evidently done his best. You have only to do what seems proper, and if it turns out badly, it is the fault of Nature for not having made you cleverer." Adm. Seymour was not involved in the Franco-British campaign against Turkey in World War I, but his spirit was very much present.

By the end of 1914, the fighting in France had become stalemated trench warfare. At the same time, Russia was under assault from invading German armies, and the czar was urging the British to undertake some action that would relieve the pressure on his country.

Britain had its hands full in France, but the czar's requests found a respectful audience in London. Lord Horatio Kitchener, the secretary of state for war, wrote to Winston Churchill, the first lord of the admiralty, that it might be possible to mount a demonstration against Turkey in the Dardanelles, the narrow 30-mile-long passage from the Mediterranean to Istanbul. Churchill made the project his own. In both world wars, Churchill was attracted to the possibility of attacking Germany's periphery, as opposed to confronting its formidable armies in Europe. As for the Dardanelles, he reasoned, battleships alone might force their way past the decrepit Turkish forts that lined the Gallipoli Peninsula.

Churchill carried the day. March 18, 1915, saw an advance by a vast Franco-British armada, including 16 battleships. Alas, things went badly from the start. The naval guns fired in a flat trajectory that proved ineffective against forts. At the same time, Turkish mines took a heavy toll on the advancing warships. The Allied commander, Gen. Ian Hamilton, agreed that nothing more could be done without the assistance of landing parties to neutralize the Turks' artillery.

The result was mission creep. Ignoring the fact that the war would be won or lost on the Western front, the British proceeded to land troops at scattered beaches on the Gallipoli Peninsula, and they became easy targets for the Turkish defenders. "Negative" intelligence was ignored. One intelligence officer was amazed "to find that the Army had decided to land at nearly all the places which we had reported as being either difficult or impossible."

At Helles, Suvla, and Anzac beaches, the story was essentially the same. The Turks occupied the high ground, and the exposed British, Australian and New Zealand troops, once landed, could think only in terms of survival.

The Gallipoli campaign has been studied extensively in Britain, and most historians have come to similarly dismal conclusions. What sets Peter Hart's narrative apart is his extensive use of firsthand British and Turkish accounts to flesh out his story. A New Zealand medical officer told of a truce in which both sides retrieved their wounded and dead. "The Turkish dead lay so thick that it was almost impossible to pass without treading on their bodies," he wrote. "The stench was awful. The Turkish doctor gave me some pieces of wool on which he poured some scent and asked me to put them into my nostrils.... Everywhere lay the dead - swollen, black and hideous - and over all a nauseating stench that made one feel desperately sick."

The occasional truces allowed Western soldiers to study the enemy. A British soldier wrote, "We stood together ... quite friendly, exchanging coins and other articles, and in some cases were able to communicate. A Turk gave me a beautiful Sultan's guard belt buckle made of brass ... with the Sultan's scroll in Arabic. All I had to give him in exchange were a few coins."

Occasionally there were touches of gallows humor. A British soldier wrote of one action, "Captain Croly was wounded at about this time ... but what he had to say about the Turk could be heard over the battlefield. In a torrent of invective, he traced the ancestry of his assailant through a series of irregular liaisons right back to the time of the Prophet."

By year's end, Hamilton had been removed from command, and the entire campaign had been written off as a costly failure. Britain and its colonies suffered 115,000 killed, wounded or missing, plus an additional 90,000 evacuated for illness. In Mr. Hart's view, the undertaking was a disaster waiting to happen, a campaign marked by "a lack of realistic goals; no coherent plan; the use of inexperienced troops; ... negligible artillery support; inadequate logistical and medical arrangements; [and] a gross underestimation of the enemy."

He concludes additionally that the Allies were fortunate not to have been penalized more severely for the Gallipoli disaster. "By diverting resources to Gallipoli the Allies exposed themselves to a greater possibility of defeat by the Germans on the Western Front. They also ran the risk of the Turks' ... soundly thrashing them, with negative consequences for British standing across the Islamic world - exactly what happened."

The debacle also would cost Winston Churchill his job, but he would be back.

• Biographer and historian John M. Taylor lives in McLean.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mal Murray Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Mar 2012 at 17:44
I must say that I have been remiss in not submitting my own review of Peter Harte's book before now. 
 
I have many books on the campaign and this one must take pride of place in that area of my library. Peter Harte has an easy writing style, he does NOT need to baffle his reader with descriptions of Corps Divisions etc. In his own inimitable style he paints a portrait of courage in confusion and describes the sacrifice of the men within the Corps and Divisions involved.
 
He intertwines the personal stories and accounts into the story of the campaign, thus allowing us at this distant time to try and  empathise with the men on the ground. The effects of the continious loss of comrades and the advances and retreats of the campaign are told at a personal level in a manner that only Peter Harte can do. Peter Harte tells military history as it should be told, courage, incompetence, warts and all.
 
This style of writing may not suit all students of the Gallipoli Campaign, but if you want to read a book to allow you to try and understand the campaign and the effects of it on the junior officer and soldier well this is the one.


Edited by Mal Murray - 12 Mar 2012 at 17:47
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