By Margaret Whittock
GALLIPOLI: a name synonymous with Australia and New Zealand. However, while that flawed campaign is rightly significant to these nations, marking as it did the birth of a new national consciousness, it involved troops from around the world, leaving a marked impact on these countries too.
While Gallipoli may not figure as highly in the UK’s national consciousness, British forces suffered hugely there. Casualty figures still vary wildly but there were almost twice as many British casualties as all other Allied troops together. An even lesser recognised fact is that 42,000 French troops landed at Gallipoli, including men from French Colonial Africa. While the French Cemetery at Morto Bay indicates the enormous extent of their losses, general histories make little if any mention of French involvement in the Gallipoli Campaign.
Better recognised now is the role of Irish soldiers, although that has not always been the case, with their contribution written out of the new Irish Republic’s history. In 1914, over 80,000 Irish men enlisted, over half from the ‘South’ and the Royal Dublin Fusiliers and the Royal Munster Fusiliers were among the first to land at Helles on 25 April, suffering 637 casualties in the first thirty six hours. The chance discovery of graves at V Beach of my great-uncles – Royal Dublin Fusiliers Sam and Jack Mallaghan – led me to research their history and that of the Gallipoli Campaign, and to recount their story in a novel, Ghost of Gallipoli.
Alongside the above, other stories await: of the Jewish Legion, Zionists drawn from Britain, America, Canada and Russia, intent on wresting Palestine from the Ottoman Empire in order to formalise a Jewish National Homeland; and of the Indian soldiers, Gurkhas and Sikhs, who between them lost 1,358 men with almost 3,500 injured.
Understandably, the greatest impact of all was felt in Turkey, then the Ottoman Empire, which lost over 86,000 of its male population. Gallipoli was a defining moment in Turkish history and the cemeteries and monuments of the Gallipoli peninsula are a testament to its continuing importance. Nationalistic tendencies were revived, laying the grounds for the Turkish War of Independence and the foundation of the Republic of Turkey, under Ataturk, a Commander on the peninsula. Now Turkey, a newly expanding world economy, has developed into one of the strongest influences in Middle Eastern politics.
However it wasn’t just Turkish people who experienced this great surge of nationalism. The defeat at Gallipoli impacted strongly on all those troops fighting for the British Empire: Australian, New Zealand, Indian, and Irish, leading to a demand for independent states, free from the dominion of British rule. Just as Turkey metamorphosed, Gallipoli was a key event in the decline of the British Empire and the nascence of a new world order. The Gallipoli Campaign is therefore important, not just to Australians and New Zealanders, but to many millions of people across the world. The ghosts of Gallipoli are not just Anzacs; they are the ghosts of many nations.
Ghost of Gallipoli by Margaret Whittock is now available as an eBook at Amazon UK and at Amazon.com