By Walid & Theodore Shoebat
When Ottoman Sultan Selim Shah invaded Egypt on January 23rd, 1517, the imams throughout the mosques of Cairo declared:
“O Allah, assist the Sultan, son of the Sultan, Sovereign of the Two Continents, of the Two Seas, Destroyer of Two Armies, Sultan of the Two Iraqs, Servant of the Two Sanctuaries [Mecca and Medina]”
What two seas? Erdogan wants to mimic Muhammad II who declared himself to be sovereign of the two seas — the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea — and the two lands — the Balkans and Anatolia (Turkey) Today, the Turks want to control the Eastern Mediterranean (alongside rivaling with Russia over the Black Sea). Turkey will, in the words of the Book of Daniel, “plant the tabernacles of his palace between the [two] seas” (Daniel 11:45).
Turkey today wants to reestablish the declaration of Muhammad II and what was exclaimed throughout the mosques of Egypt in 1517. The poem of history is rhyming with the prose of the current.
As we live under the Corona-crisis, Turkey is working behind all of the fixation on the pandemic to fulfill her major aspiration: controlling the eastern Mediterranean. It is an official plan of the Turkish government, called Mavi Vatan, or Blue Homeland, that is, the Mediterranean Sea becoming Ottoman turf. The plan is, in fact, fourteen years old, and is aimed at the oil and natural gas of the eastern Mediterranean in competition against Egypt, Israel, Greece and Cyprus. Turkey’s pursuit for domination in the region is manifested in her strong military presence in Libya where thousands of Turkish-backed Syrian mercenaries are fighting against the forces of Khalifa Haftar, who is backed by Russia and France (while the US and NATO is backing the Government of National Accord). Within this Turkish will to power and empire lies the centuries old war between Arabists (who do not desire to be Ottomanized) and neo-Ottomans (who are fanatics about reviving the Ottoman Empire).
Ideological objectives are impossible without territorial conquests and control. Hence why Erdogan is supporting the UN recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) against Haftar, since on November of 2019, he and the head of the GNA, Fayez al-Sarraj, signed a military cooperation agreement and a separate deal on maritime boundaries that gives to Turkey drilling and pipeline rights over a huge part of the Mediterranean Sea between Libya and Turkey. Conforming to Turkey’s plan to revive the Ottoman Empire, the agreement establishes that a number of the gas fields found in the Mediterranean a few years ago are no longer within Libya’s maritime zone, but instead belong to Turkey, essentially giving territory to Turkish expansionism without a bullet fired.
“The GNA was short on military and diplomatic support, but it’s definitely not short of oil money yet,” said Anas El Gomati, the director of the Tripoli-based Sadeq Institute think-tank. “This was a smart move on Ankara’s part: by propping up Tripoli, Turkey is looking to recoup billions of dollars in unfinished construction contracts signed under Gaddafi, and get in first when it comes to the reconstruction needed after this bout of fighting.” For a while the forces of Haftar were winning many battles and has controlled the majority of Libya. But this is shifting dramatically due to Turkish support for the GNA. With extremely efficient reconnaissance and drone technology, Turkish troops and Syrian fighters, Haftar has been losing a lot of territory, and this was signified by the recent takeover of both a key airbase and the town of al-Asabaa from Haftar’s forces. In fact, Haftar recently announced a partial withdrawal from Tripoli’s front lines. As Turkey’s proxies take victories in Libya, Turkey’s commercial deals solidify control over huge swaths of territory. In the words of Mustafa Karahan, the director of consultancy for Dragon Energy:
“The push for control over any oil and gas in the Mediterranean basin is not really an economic project at all: gas supply is not a pressing need or financial imperative for Turkey yet. This is really about the projection of political power … Spending on Mediterranean energy projects is a bit like national defence budgets. It’s like an arms race where you have to act before your rival does.”
The commercial deals are more about power over territory and expansionism than they are about money. As Turkey gains control over natural resources, she encroaches on the maritime territories or the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of other countries, hence why Egypt, Cyprus, Greece and Israel are very wary about Turkey’s drilling on the eastern Mediterranean. Turkey’s struggle for neo-Ottomanism is occurring within a tense rivalry with other countries. Turkey is currently battling both the Assad regime and Kurdish fighters in Syria while combating the influence of the UAE (United Arab Emirates) in Somalia and across the Horn of Africa, which signifies a rift between Turkey and the Arabs.
In the pursuit of this power, the Turkish military machine is quickly manifesting itself in the Mediterranean, with drones flying in Syrian airspace, navy frigates steering along the Libyan coast, Turkish military advisors in Tripoli to help the GNA, mountain commando units conducting operations in northern Iraq, and major Turkish officers in Qatar and Somalia.
Turkey’s military aspirations are also signified through her advanced, and continuously advancing, navy. In 2016, the Turkish government announced that it was going to boost up it’s navy capacity by purchasing scores of naval technology in a program known as MILGEM (a Turkish acronym for “the national ship”). This program has been being accelerating with the help a global technological force: Germany. In 2016, Turkey’s top procurement official, Ismail Demir, announced that Turkey was going to construct six “new type” submarines, under German license, and that the deliveries of submarines would be done in this year of 2020. “These [submarines] will be built entirely in Turkey although they are German design,” he said. But, Turkey’s Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM) made it known that the next generation of submarines would be designed, developed and constructed locally, an objective that Turkey is working very tenaciously on today. The 2020s is going to be the decade of global militarism.
Turkey has quickly made a name for herself in the global world of weapons exports and developers. According to a 2018 report from the German publication, Welt, Turkey’s weapons export industry has gotten big enough to surpass even the Israelis:
“exports, it is said, reached a volume of two billion dollars for the first time – an increase of 14 percent compared to the previous year. The Turkish arms industry has overtaken the Israelis in scope and performance.”
With the rise of Turkish power means the revival of the Ottoman Empire. Since there is a tremendous amount of hatred for Israel and Jews in Turkey (Mein Kampf has sold tremendously well in Turkey), and since there is a very intense aspiration to restore the empire of the Turk, we will be seeing a resurgence of Turkish expansionism in the Middle East. The Germans, being historical allies to the Turks, will side with this revived Ottoman Empire, just as they were allies in the First World War. Let us talk about a battle that took place within World War One in which the Ottomans and Germans worked together to utterly defeat the British, so as to show an example of what we are returning to in our rhyming of history.
Our minds are oblivious to the reality of history; that truly history is a phenomena that does not die, but lives on, and the spirit that drives men to the madness of bloodshed — like the three frogs of which St. John saw as going abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle (Revelation 16:14) — lives on, possessing men’s souls and making their bodies into the vassals of violence. As long as the spirit of pride lives on, history will live on, and those moribund things that are ubiquitous in the annals of mankind — with wars and massacres for the purpose of avarice and sadism; with cruelty and bloodshed for entertainment; with systematic starvation for the cause of ravenousness and stirring up hatred; with antagonism for the cause of provoking division and vitriol — abounding, enslaving men to the vicious circle of the strategy of tension from which the only way out is to reject the marketed picture of man as animal and to recognize humanity for what he is: a creation of clay imbibed with the spirit of life. For only then will we realize the universality and modest position of man, and how it is binded together through the crafting of the eternal hand of heaven.
Until then, history will continue, showing a pattern of behavior and habits, with crimson hues flowing on the dark earth, and with the blue sky covered with smoke of ashes, and the consciousness of man being clouded by the smoldering coals of our own obeisance to the sight of power, never realizing that such sanguinary events are merely repetitions stemming from our decision to live within the vicious cycle of history, while denying its very existence. What we see today is only a resuming of what existed in the past.
“What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9)
Let us take a small glimpse of the past, whose flames we can still see in the smoldering fumes that are sailing through the winds of the present. The date was January 2nd, 1915. In the room of the British War Council were the major figures leading the country in the horrendous tragedy of the Great War. They discussed information that was coming from St. Petersburg, from Grand Duke Nicholas, the supreme commander of the Russian forces. The news had arrived suggesting that Russian troops in Azerbaijan were about to be surrounded by Ottoman soldiers.
The Russians were requesting the help of their British allies. The War Council agreed to assist the Russians, and Field Marshall Horatio Herbert Kitchener, the secretary of state for war, sent a telegram to St. Petersburg promising that the British military would “make a demonstration against the Turks”. To do this, the British would invade the Dardanelles, a strait on the northwestern part of Turkey leading right to Istanbul (called at that time Constantinople).
The reasoning behind this mission was to take a costal land so important for the Ottomans that they would have to redirect troops from the Caucasus, away from the Russians, and bring them back to Turkey to fight the British. Kitchener knew that he could not bring troops from the Western front, where they were fighting the Germans and Austro-Hungarians, but he knew that British and French naval ships in the eastern Mediterranean could be deployed against the Ottomans. Already the British had fought the Ottomans in Iraq, Aden, the Gulf of Aqaba, the Gulf of Alexandretta and the outer forts of the Dardanelles, and still the Turks did not move significantly. But, a new attack on the Dardanelles, thought Kitchener, could provoke the Turks to move away from their battle with the Russians in order to defend their capital Istanbul. In a letter to Winston Churchill, who at that time was Lord of the Admiralty — Kitchener wrote: “The only place that a demonstration might have some effect in stopping reinforcements going east would be at the Dardanelles.”
Churchill went to his admirals to know the practicality of a naval attack on a well guarded territory such as the Dardanelles. He wanted to know more than just feasibility of a naval bombardment, but on the possibility of threatening Istanbul by “forcing the Straits by ships alone”. The Dardanelles were heavily inundated with underwater mines, and Churchill wanted to run the ships right through them, into the Sea of Marmara to terrify Istanbul. The Ottomans and the Germans understood the strategic importance of guarding the Dardanelles in order to protect Istanbul, since to control the Dardanelles would mean controlling the pathway between “the two seas” that the Sultans wanted to be sovereign over. And so they modernized and reinforced their gun batteries that lied on the narrowest part of the Straits of the Dardanelles (known as “the Narrows”). The Ottomans and Germans also placed searchlights on the Narrows in order to prevent the British and French from doing nighttime missions. They also placed nets underneath the water to hinder the movement of British submarines and placed hundreds of underwater mines, making the straits impenetrable.
The strategy of invading the Dardanelles was set up by Admiral Sackville Carden to whom Churchill wrote requesting a plan of action. Carden, on January 5th, replied back to Churchill and told him that while the Ottomans would not be pushovers, the Straits could be taken by “extended operations with a large number of ships”. The first part of Carden’s strategy was the “reduction of the forts of the entrance” so as to allow the British and French ships to enter the Straits and provide cover for minesweepers as they made a clear path for the storming of the Dardanelles. The second part of the strategy was “the destruction of the inside defenses as far Kephez”, which was four miles within the Straits. After establishing control over the widest part of the Dardanelles,the British would move forward into the Narrows where lied a mass of mines underneath the waters, and where the coasts were fortified with cannons. In the fourth and last part of Carden’s strategy, the British would clear out the mines, take out the Ottoman’s defenses beyond the Narrows and continue moving through the remaining 27 miles of the Dardanelles before invading the Sea of Marmara. Carden estimated that the mission could be accomplished in a matter of weeks. Churchill took this plan and submitted it for approval to the War Council on January 13th.
However, by the time the War Council convened, the Russians had already defeated the Turks in the Caucasus and no longer needed British help. But, the idea of taking over the Dardanelles and ultimately Istanbul captured the minds of those of the War Council. The Western front, where the British and French were fighting the Germans, was at an impasse, and so the British looked to the east for what they saw as an easier victory. The Ottomans, indeed, lost to the British in Mesopotamia, Aden and the Gulf of Alexandretta; thus the Dardanelles could not be that difficult, thought the British. Moreover, with the Dardanelles under control, the British and French could send troops and provisions through the Black Sea to help the Russians fight the Germans and Austrians. And in turn, Russian grain could be sent easily through the Straits to feed the British and French troops.
But nonetheless there were doubts about a victory in the War Council. Kitchener comforted them by saying that if the mission failed the ships could simply be withdrawn. On January 13th, the day of the meeting, Carden’s plan was approved. The Royal Navy was ordered “to prepare for a naval expedition in February, to bombard and take the Gallipoli peninsula, with Constantinople as its objective.” The idea of taking Constantinople appealed to the Russians who, with Orthodox zeal, dreamed of retaking the city that was once the center of Eastern Orthodoxy but was invaded by the Ottomans in 1453. The Russians even pledged that they would deploy their navy into the Bosphorus immediately after the British arrived at the Sea of Marmara. But even in this religious fervor, there was vying and rivalry. For the Russians feared that if they did not secure their claim over Istanbul first, the Greeks would deploy their soldiers into that most desired city. This Russian dream of retaking the city was reflected in a letter by Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Sazonov to the ambassadors of Britain and France requesting an allied agreement on “the question of Constantinople and the Straits” regarding “the time-honored aspirations of Russia”. On March 12th the British agreed to give the city — what they called “the richest prize of the entire war” — to the Russians.
In the late part of January and in early February, the British and French ships were deployed. They used the island of Lemnos as their base of operation, and from the island’s Moudros Harbor, they travelled to the Dardanelles, to the mouth of the Straits, to the mouth of a dragon — a dragon of war, a beast that consumes and burns and leaves nothing in return. From the harbor of Moudros went the British aircraft carrier, what they called the Ark Royal, to send out six seaplanes to provide reconnaissance for the battle over the Dardanelles. But amongst all the ships that the British and French had, the one that stood out the most was the Queen Elizabeth, a “super-dreadnought” armed with 15-inch guns that could fire one-ton shells over a distance of eighteen miles, making them the most powerful cannons in the eastern Mediterranean at that time. The armada of the British and French made its presence known, with another seventy ships crowding the Greek harbor — cruisers, destroyers, minesweepers, torpedo boats and submarines. All together they had 274 medium and heavy cannons.
February 19th, 1915 — the battle over the Dardanelles began. Allies commenced the first part of Carden’s strategy of destroying outer fortifications of the Ottomans, around Seddulbahir and Kum Kale. The British dreadnoughts opened fire on the Turkish forts, not worrying about the old cannons of the Ottomans which were inferior to those on the European fleets. British cannons got numerous direct hits on their targets, giving confidence to the Allies who then began to move closer on their enemy. The Turks returned fire with their outdated guns, and although they were inferior to the British cannons, they were powerful enough to force the British ships to retreat. In the midst of all this, fear rippled into Istanbul where the Ottoman government and the palace began preparing to leave the capital city for the town of Eshisehir. The British back in London observed the panic of the Ottomans and gained confidence that they could spark a political crises in Istanbul, big enough to overthrow the Young Turk government.
On February 25th, the British dreadnought, Agamemnon (named after the king who invaded Troy) was hit hard by a storm of fire from Turkish cannons. Other Allied ships returned fire, silencing the Turks. The British were confident that they could push through with the mission. Royal Marines landed on the southern tip of the Gallipoli Peninsula to demolish the remaining Turkish guns. They treaded through the beach without any opposition, destroyed the guns and left without any casualties.
The ships of the British empire guided their way towards the mouth of that great beast which they desired so much to gain their prestige as conquerers and victors of the Crown. They maneuvered their way into the mouth of the Dardanelles, not thinking of what ferocious flames would pour out from the dragon’s mouth. They commenced the second part of Carden’s plan which was to clear out the underwater mines using minesweepers and to destroy the Turkish defenses from the entrance of the Dardanelles to Kepez Point. They would have moved swiftly, from the mouth of the dragon to the point they wished to reach, but they received bad intelligence and had to endure through rough weather, and thus did they slow down, keeping themselves from accomplishing the mission they so desired to finish. The winds sharply whistled through the air, and the roaring waves of the sea harshly moved through the waters. But once the ruthless seas abated, the soldiers began to pursue the destruction of the Turkish cannons; but such batteries were very strategically positioned, escaping the view of the naked eye, and they were far enough that the British could not hit them from sea level. The cannons of the Allied fleets thundered, their shells landing and striking the coasts of the Dardanelles. The earth shook, and the warriors of the mighty empire that made the world tremble stood frustrated as they realized that their missiles caused no damage to the Turkish guns. The guns were buried by a tremendous amount of dirt and terrain, but once the British ships withdrew, the Germans and Turks quickly dug the guns out and they were once again ready for battle.
The Turkish guns were old and outdated, and yet they could still strike fear. But the most feared guns in their possession were the ones given to them by the Germans: the howitzer. In the words of one French naval officer: “Those nasty cannons make no smoke, are very small, highly mobile, and I have no advice to offer in locating them.” From behind the hills, hidden from the Allies’ sight, flanking the Anglo-French force, did the howitzers fire and a rain of shrapnel strike the decks of their ships, taking many a life.
The minesweepers were removing the underwater bombs that struck terror into the hearts of the soldiers; and then, as though fire descended from the earth, a howitzer fired one shot and slaughtered twenty French sailors who were on the cruiser, Amethyst. The British, through their intelligence, believed that the mines were concentrated from the entrance of the Dardanelles to the Narrows. But they were wrong. The Germans and Turks concentrated their mines within the narrowest reaches of the Dardanelles, making the area between Kepez Point and the Narrows impossible to maneuver through. It appears that the Germans wanted them to think what their intelligence had reported, in order to mislead them through the narrowest part of the Straits.
As one French naval officer reported: “In spite of our very precise information (probably of Boche provenance) on the position, number and density of the lines of mines, we have yet to find a single one. … So what the devil have we been doing here since February 25?” The British were so confident that they would be able to overwhelm the Ottomans with their huge number of ships, but their firepower was not even able to neutralize the Turkish batteries.
And to no avail did those British minesweepers purge the waterways of mines, as the Allied fleet ebbed within the jaws of the beast, the troops standing within their ships, not really knowing as to what was going to happen. Carefully searching the waters, they looked for mines, and with consternation they tried to hit the cannons that were so well hid and positioned. What escaped the eyes of the British was in the cover of night, on the days of March 7 and 8, the Ottomans laid out twenty mines in Erenkoy Bay, after having observed the movements of their Anglo-French enemy. Weeks had passed, and they were still trapped between the coasts, the Narrows, underneath the beaming Mediterranean sun.
Back in London, patience was being lost and gone was compassion as the battle was taking too long, too much time, and thus the troops needed to storm the Straits, regardless of the bombs that were underneath them, or the cannons that were pointed at them. “If success cannot be obtained without loss of ships and men,” wrote Churchill to Admiral Carden on March 11th, “results to be gained are important enough to justify such a loss”. He went on to write: “Every well-conceived action for forcing a decision, even should regrettable losses be entailed, will receive our support.” On March 15th, Carden issued the order to attack the Turkish fortifications and to drive the ships through the Narrows. So much stress burdened Carden that he collapsed from stress on March 16th and was replaced by Vice Admiral J. M. de Robeck who on March 18th ordered that the operation for the Dardanelles be commenced.
Dawn’s light gleamed through the air and the sun’s rays awakened the day and put away the night; the stars reposed from their labor and the bright hues of the Mediterranean sky shined on the calmly ebbing waters, with the morning’s awakening fluorescence embellishing the jagged hills that cascaded the coasts of the narrowest part of what was soon to become a watery grave, or as one German officer would describe it, “the greatest battle which had ever taken place between floating ironclads and land batteries.” Hours had passed, and at 11:00 AM, the Queen Elizabeth led a group of the six largest ships within the mouth of the Dardanelles. They began opening fire on Ottoman forts, in the words of one eyewitness, “at a truly terrifying rate”. The Turks returned fire, and for 90 minutes did both sides shoot at each other, with roaring cannons and thundering explosions.
French ships maneuvered towards Kepez Point, but from the Turkish forts on the Narrows heavy blasts from cannons erupted and the metal of fleets were struck. The Suffren and the Bouvet were hit several times and forced to leave to be replaced by British ships. But the Bouvet, as it shifted its direction to escape the overwhelming bombardment got caught in the rushing current of the waters and lost control, and as it was swept away it hit a mine, right there on Erenkoy Bay, near the shores of the beaches that soldiers would soon have to tread. The steal machine of war had a massive hole; water inundated it and filled the ship’s smokestacks, making it into a boiling cauldron. Almost all of the 724 soldiers inside were trapped. The weapon of the sea became a tomb, as only sixty-two men would survive. One French officer, struck with horror, would write: “If I live one hundred years I will never forget the horror of watching the Bouvet sink.”
The nightmare did not end, but was only beginning. For at around 4:00 PM, the Inflexible, a British ship, struck a mine; and then almost immediately afterwards, another British ship, the Irresistible, proved that it was resistible when it hit a mine and had her rudder destroyed, leaving her to the mercy of the irresistible current. The British sent a ship to the Irresistible’s rescue, called Ocean, and she, too, hit a mine. The Ottomans, seeing one ship sink and three other ships crippled, intensified their fire on their enemies. They took aim at the French Suffren, fired, and twelve sailers lost their lives and the ship nearly sank. The Turks directed their crosshairs on the Gaulois, another French ship, and bombarded her with heavy fire, and her body got flooded. The bellowing beasts of the sea found themselves in the jaws of an even bigger beast, with soldiers and commanders overlooking the fleet on those Ottoman meadows and hills. Sefik Kaptan, a Turkish gunnery officer, watched as Admiral de Robeck raised the flag calling for the ships to return away from the Ottoman crosshairs. “The battle was won,” Kaptan later recounted.
They watched as both Ocean and Irresistible could not resist the ocean’s current no longer, and continued firing on them until both ships made the sea’s floor their watery abode. The eyes of the Turks were elated as they saw their enemy’s ships retreat. “Padisahim Cok Yasa!” (“Long live the Sultan!”) they cried. The cries of victory resounded all the way to Istanbul where people displayed the Ottoman flag in celebration. So far, three British and French ships had been sunk, three others were tremendously damaged by Turkish bombardments, and over a thousand lives had been lost. Steal and metal sunk, and that Anatolian sea was made red by the slaughtered, while the Ottomans remained nearly untouched. And even Russia, with all of her aspiring to retake Constantinople, forsook their promise to help the British, as the United Kingdom’s troops were in the clutches of the beast’s jaws.
March 19th, 1915.
“You know my views,” said Kitchener to Ian Hamilton, “that the passage of the Dardanelles must be forced, and that if large military operations on the Gallipoli peninsula are necessary to clear the way, they must be undertaken, and must be carried through.” 75,000 more troops were committed by Kitchener to the battle against the Dardanelles. They would need a month to prepare for full on ground assault on the Dardanelles, enough time to give the Turks and their German allies to ready themselves for the British assault. The British looked to ports on the Mediterranean, buying every small boat they could, and this alerted both the Germans and Turks who knew full well of the coming incursion.
Men from throughout the British and French Empires would come to the jaws of the beast: Irish, Scottish, English, Welsh, Australians and New Zealanders (who would be known as the Anzacs), and even Maoris, Gurkhas and Sikhs, Africans from Senegal, Guinea, Sudan and the Maghreb, were together in this Mediterranean assault. Corporal Mostyn Pryce Jones of the New Zealand Canterbury Battalion wrote to his mother of ships carrying “British, French, Australians and N.Z. troops all eager for the fray” and the “hundreds of cruises, dreadnoughts, super dread-noughts, submarines, torpedo destroyers and torpedo boats, all making a wonderful picture … It makes you realize the great might and strength of OUR Empire and you can even feel a thrill of pride run through you as you realize that you yourself are a part (if a very insignificant one) of this vast and magnificent brotherhood of people”.
It took the British one month to prepare, enough time for the enemy to assemble his own forces. The Turks appointed a German commander, Otto Liman von Sanders, who was, in his origins, of the Jewish people, to lead the Turks against the British. Sanders knew that the British were giving him enough time to make his own preparations. “The British gave me four full weeks before their great landing,” Sanders would later write. “The time was just sufficient to complete the most indispensable arrangements.”
The British and the French, alongside the various peoples of their empires, waited during the night for the time of the fight, anxious for the intensity of battle, to avenge the blood of their comrades spilt on the calm waters of Anatolia. Sir Ian Hamilton proclaimed to the troops that they were soon embarking on “an adventure unprecedented in modern war”. On the other side, on the beaches of Gallipoli, Colonel Mustafa Kemal, declared to the warriors of the Ottoman Empire and the Umma: “I don’t order you to attack, I order you to die. In the time which passes until we die other troops and commanders can take our places.”
The moon was set and its light was brought about by the soft rays of the sun, in that early Sunday morning of April 25th. The British ships stood silent, not wanting to alert the enemy. Surprise was the strategy of the British as they were about to storm the beaches of Gallipoli. The French sent ships to Besika Bay where they were to pretend to land in order to confuse the enemy. The British did the same by feinting a landing at the furthest point of the Gallipoli Peninsula off Bulair. Two Ottoman divisions had to deal with feinting boats, as opposed to fighting their enemies on places they were actually going to land on.
Before the sun awakened with the gleam of its dawn, British soldiers climbed down rope ladders, descending from their main ships and getting on small rowboats to scurry towards the beach. Small steamboats pulled the little boats by rope, and moved towards the land which was about 100 yards away. They were open to bullets and shrapnel and needed protection from warships which, at around 4:30 am, provided covering fire by blasting away at the Turks with “a mass of fire and smoke” as one British naval officer recounted. Turkish officers blew their whistles, signaling that now was the moment they were prepared for. “The shoreline was covered with heavy black smoke, tinged with blue and green,” wrote Major Mahmud Sabri. “Visibility was zero.” The British bombardments hit gun positions, ruined communication trenches and turned “foxholes, meant to protect lives,” into “tombs.” There was shrapnel “as big as eggs” killing many Turkish soldiers in their trenches. “With dead and dismembered comrades at their side, without worrying about being outnumbered or the nature of the enemy’s fire, our men waited for the moment they could use their weapons.” The British and French stopped their bombardments so as to allow their troops to storm the beach. It was then that the Turks waited quietly for their prey. The point where they were to land was called “V Beach”, and it was between the old fortress of Seddulbahir and the diminished lighthouse at Cape Helles.
Dark clouds from the Allied bombardments still covered the beach, and on the crest of the ocean were the the soldiers approaching, getting closer and closer to the field of where angst and consternation also filled the air. The silence was all that was heard at 6:22 AM, when the River Clyde —a ship that was likened to the Trojan Horse — landed on the beach. “No opposition,” recorded Colonel Williams as he watched from his ship. “We shall land unopposed.” Three minutes passed and, in the words of Williams, “Hell burst loose on them”. His eyes gazed with horror as all of the men on a landing craft were slaughtered. Only a small number of the first wave of eight hundred men made it alive on the beach, on that Anatolian terrain which now stood as a killing field. Major Mahmud Sabri wrote with graphic prose:
“The enemy approached shore in life-boats. When they came into range, our men opened fire. Here, for years, the color of the sea had always been the same, but now it turned red with the blood of our enemies. Whenever the flash of (our) rifles was spotted, the enemy plastered the area with artillery and machine-gun fire. This failed to reduce the intensity of our fire. In the hope of saving their lives, some of the enemy jumped from life-boats into the sea. From shipboard, their commanders used flags to order life-boats to take shelter behind promontories, but there was no escape. In spite of enemy shelling and machine-gun fire, our men continued to hit their targets, and the dead rolled into the sea. The shoreline of [V Beach] filled with enemy corpses, lined up like rows of broad-beans.”
The River Clyde, esteemed as the Trojan Horse, was now standing about, open to enemy gunfire, stuck in waters too deep to allow the men to land. The small steamboats were not strong enough to move through the hard current. G.L. Drewry, a midshipman on the River Clyde, jumped into the water and made his way to a pontoon bridge. He spotted a wounded man, carried him up, and he was soon torn to pieces in his arms by the vicious gunfire. A storm of bullets resounded in the air, ripping through flesh; blood glutted the sands and the water in the midst of a chaos of gore, steal, smoke and explosions. Men tried to get onto the shore on lighters, but slaughter abounded. “I stayed on the lighters and tried to keep the men from going ashore but it was murder and soon the first lighter was covered with dead and wounded,” wrote Drewry. “When they got ashore they were little better off for they were picked off many of them before they could dig themselves in.” Those who made it ashore hid behind sand dunes, where they waited in terror, under the reign of horrid noise from bullets, from the prospect of death and dismemberment, waiting for the sun to finally descend to take refuge in the darkness.
The beach still smoldered from the explosions as other troops hid inside the well fortified collier that took them across the water. A thousand British soldiers waited in despair and angst on the benches of a landing craft that was moving towards the beach. When they were just fifty yards away from shore, Ottoman soldiers, armed with rifles, fired on them. Major Haworth of the Lancashire Fusiliers recalled how “an awful rifle and maxim gun fire broke out from the cliffs” that looked over the bay. As more small boats got closer to the beach, Haworth — wanting his men to escape gunfire — ordered them to jump off the boats into the water. They leapt out, with the water reaching up their chests. Bullets ripped through water and flesh and many, overtaken by pain and the weight of their packs, drowned.
The survivors made it onto W Beach, cornered by heavy fire. Haworth noticed that the bullets were being fired from a trench on top of a hill and ordered his men to storm it. Men fell dead or were lacerated and wounded by the raining bullets. Haworth managed to get close enough to the enemy that a Turkish soldier fired his weapon and ripped the top off of his ear. Haworth swiftly killed the Ottoman with his revolver as he strived to reach the top of the hill. “Just as I reached the trench there was a terrific explosion — the trench was mined and I and those near me were sent hustling down to the bottom of the cliff again.” Haworth gathered forty survivors and took shelter at the foot of the hills. They stood trapped for the rest of the day, like defenseless flightless birds, they were picked off by snipers. Six men were killed and wounded and Haworth himself was shot in the back. He dropped to the ground, paralyzed, and lied amongst dead bodies until medics reached the beach.
In another beach, at the steep banks of Zigindere, two thousand troops were trapped by relentless gunfire and seven hundred of them lost their lives. More waves of British troops landed, and with so much numbers they were able to repulse the Ottoman defenders. When the sun descended, more troops landed on the beaches. In the late evening, soldiers walked past the wounded and the dead, and the moribund smell of carnage permeated the air. The Turks watched as more troops landed, and this was to their dread. “Send the doctors to carry off my wounded” wrote one Turkish defender to his superior officer. “Alas! Alas, my captain, for God’s sake send me reinforcements because hundreds of soldiers are landing.” 140 soldiers tried to storm a beach, and after being devastated by gunfire, only eighteen made it ashore.
On Monday, April 26th, the light of the dawn shined upon the troops, and by this time they had made it to four of the five landing sites, and they took troops from Y Beach and moved them to other positions.
The French stormed the village of Kum Kale in the late afternoon and were faced with Turkish soldiers coming in from the town of Yeni Sehir. The sun went down and darkness descended upon those rugged hills on which men were soon to be killing one another.
Of cries resounding, of horror overtaking the minds of men, of carnage tinging the earth, of Anatolian fields splattered with the blood of warriors, of water clouded crimson red, of gunpowder spoiling the fresh air, this is the story we retell, to remind on the horrors of war. What fury was seen on that moribund night, when French and Ottoman soldiers fought hand to hand, with bullet fire and bayonets piercing flesh in a torrent of confusion. Many died on both sides, but the French slightly got the upper hand. Armenians and Greeks who were forced to fight for the Ottomans, saw their chance of escape and approached the French with the white flag of surrender. They were taken as prisoners of war. Soon afterwards, hundreds of Ottoman soldiers approached the French, armed with bayonets attached to their guns. Captain Rockel walked up to them, thinking that they wanted to negotiate, but he got sucked into the crowd, never to be seen again. The Turks took advantage of the confusion caused by the battle. The Ottoman soldiers penetrated the French lines and managed to seize two machine guns. Commander Albert d’Amade ordered his troops to open fire. The Ottomans fired on the French from homes that were behind the French lines. For hours the battle lasted, with the French taking control of Kum Kale and subsequently executing a Turkish officer and eight soldiers as revenge for the killing of Captain Rockel.
On the morning of April 27th, the French departed from Kum Kale and joined the British in Gallipoli, taking the right side of Allied lines. Together the British and French formed a front line to establish a defense against the Ottomans who lied between the Allies and the pertinent position of Achi Baba. Australian and New Zealander troops were on their boats, and like the prior soldiers, got caught in the strong current, missing their destination and instead landing in what is known as Anzac Cove. As the soldiers were approaching the beach they found themselves on an unfamiliar coast since they landed not in the area they planned to land on.
At 4:38 AM, the Turks fired on them as they were approaching the shore. Journalist C.E.W. Bean, who was with the Australian troops, described the beginning of the gunfire: “first a few shots, then heavy and continuous”. As the boats were landing the troops were — in the words of one Australian soldier — “jammed together like sardines in the boats, while the Turks blazed away merrily at us from the top of the big hill just skirting the shore”. Bullets rained down on them, and soldiers fled into the beach horrified of the site of the men next to them getting butchered by waves of gunfire. Chaos ensued as soldiers were separated from their commanding officers and different units of soldiers converged in a labyrinth of hysteria. In the horror of bullets firing upon them, soldiers found the nearest commanding officer, locked their bayonets into their rifles, and charged up the hills to take head on the Ottomans. “The lads cheered every inch of the way,” wrote one Australian infantryman in a letter home, “which I really believe helped to dishearten the Turks, for when we got near the top, they jumped out of their trenches and ran like old Harry to their second line of trenches, a distance of half a mile or more.”
A few miles away from Anzac Cove, a Turkish commander named Mustafa Kemal Bey ordered the Ottoman First Infantry Regiment to prepare to make an attack on the Australians and New Zealanders. While on his way to the front line, Mustafa saw a number of retreating Ottomans. He stopped them and ordered them to put on their bayonets and fight. He would later recall how the Australians and New Zealanders held “an unfavorable and very wide front … cut up by a number of valleys which were obstacles. For this reason the enemy was weak on nearly every part of his front.” As he readied his troops, Mustafa reflected on the tenacity of his soldiers: “This was no ordinary attack. Everybody in this attack was eager to succeed or go forward with the determination to die.” The Ottomans attacked with ferociousness. In the words of one Australian soldier: “strongly reinforced, [the Ottomans] commenced a desperate counter-attack, supported by artillery, and machine guns, and having our range to a nicety, they gave us the hottest time of our lives”. The fighting “raged incessantly the whole night through”.
Corporal Mostyn Pryce, who earlier told his men that the battle was going to be an “adventure,” found himself and his men trapped in the jaws of the beast. His spirit crushed and his enthusiasm diminished, he would later recount: “Our men were dropping one after another but then gamely stuck to it, finally gaining the firing line. … You cannot possibly imagine how horrible it is to see your chums and comrades, just before laughing and joking, dropping round you with all kinds of horrible wounds.” By the end, from Jones’s company of 256 men, only 86 made the roll call, with the rest either dead, wounded or gone missing or split apart from the horror that commenced at Anzac Beach. 500 of the Anzac troops were dead and 2,000 were wounded. Anzac commanders requested an evacuation, but this was denied by Sir Ian Hamilton who explained to them:
“There is nothing for it but to dig yourselves right in and it out … Make a personal appeal to your men … to make a supreme effort to hold their ground. … You have got through the difficult business. Now you have only to dig, dig, dig, until you are safe.”
Thrice did the British and French push through to break enemy lines on the tip of the Gallipoli peninsula, and thrice did they fail. When they tried to take the village of Krithia, three thousand Allied troops were slaughtered. When they tried to take Krithia and Achi Baba, 6,500 British and French troops lost their lives, and for just 600 yards of territory. They tried to take Krithia the third time, there ended up being 4,500 British and 2,000 French casualties. Thousands of Ottomans lost their lives in the torrent of the battle. In the quagmire of fighting, 50,000 Ottoman troops made their attack on the Allies, and 10,000 of them were slaughtered and wounded after seven hours of fighting.
A month had passed as the dark event transpired. Many a man entrenched himself in the earth stained with blood, and all the men — with stern faces, with gloomy countenances — waited for the moment of the fray, anticipating that death may come with his black hazy chariots to cary their souls away from the red soaked land. But still, even in such a hellish predicament did they still carry a glimmer of hope that floated like a dissipating cloud in their beings. The Turks had the high ground and the Allies had the low position; be it in the tiny Anzac Cove or on the toe of the Peninsula, the British and French, Australians and Anzacs, were trapped, like a tiny island on the verge of being swallowed up by a torrential wave. The plan of Churchill was thrown out as the men suffered under the horrors of shrapnel and gunfire.
The British ship, Goliath, fired on the Turks to protect French troops, and then it saw a torpedo boat. They thought it was an Allied ship, but they did not know that it was in fact the Muavenet-i Milliye, which fired on the Goliath with three torpedoes, sinking the Goliath in two minutes. 570 of the 700 sailers lost their lives. Another Turkish torpedo boat sank an Australian sub, the AE2. By May the French lost two submarines, the Joule and the Saphir. German U-boats also backed the Turkish navy and sank down the British ship, Triumph. The same German U-boat sank HMS Majestic. Truly the major support for the Ottoman Empire was German ingenuity and military technology. This is what ruined the British and French in the Dardanelles; with German U-boats and Turkish torpedo ships, the Allied navy was heavily impeded from protecting the troops trapped in consternation within the jaws of the Dardanelles. The operation was an absolute disaster, forcing Churchill — condemned for his reckless plan for the Dardanelles — out of his position as lord of the Admiralty after which he was demoted to chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. (Everything in this article regarding the battle of the Dardanelles is from Eugene Rogan’s book, The Fall of the Ottomans, chs. 7-8)
All the while the men of war were left to be pummeled by cannon, shrapnel and bullets; abandoned into the jaws of the beast, forced to fight the slaves of the antichrist and the advancers of cruelty, within a storm of confusion and carnage and acrimony. By the end of the battle, hundreds of thousands of Allied troops were slaughtered or wounded under the war machine of the Germans and the Ottomans. The slaughter was done under the watchful eyes of politicians, ideologues and industrialists. Today, there is nothing new under the sun, and so as we walk in the midst of time, we are heading towards the darkening of the sun’s light, and under the same entities that have caused such misery, the miserable poem of history will rhyme with our own times.