FERGUSSON AT GALLIPOLI
(Cavalry News 47, 1991)
Some of our readers may recall certain articles that our first C.O. Lt Col M Fergusson wrote for this paper quite a few years ago now .... "The Cavalry is Resting", "The Pack was full of 7's" etc, but for some reason his article on Gallipoli was never published. Why? ... Lack of space at the time maybe, however, as he was at the landing and fought at Gallipoli, we consider then that his thoughts on the subject matter written in 1970 should have had an airing, thus we present:
"Gallipoli, The Strategic Decision".
To my knowledge no appreciation leading to a decision to place a fleet in the Sea of Marmona has ever been published, and it is probably true to say that one was never made. The decision was the result of ill informed guesses. What were the objects?
By threatening Constantinople with bombardment to secure surrender by the Turkish Government.
By opening the sea route to Odessa to furnish support to Russian armes with ammunition, weapons and supplies.
Consideration of Object 1
When bombardment of the Narrows started, the Turkish Government ordered a train to be ready 24 hours a day to move the Govt inland in Asia Minor.
General Von Falkenhayn, a great soldier and a gentleman, was Chief of Staff in Germany, (the fiction that the Kaiser was C in C was maintained to the last). The General wrote "upon one thing it was possible to depend absolutely on the firm determination of the leading men in Turkey to defend every inch of Turkish soil, and to continue the war even if Constantinople was lost. During the length of the war Enva Pasha never wavered for a moment".
The Government was unpopular, and it is probable that all the armies would have refused to surrender. HQ of armies 1 and 5 were in Constantinople, and it is certain the Govt would have been deposed and control taken over by Commander of Army 1, advised by Liman Von Sanders.
The Goeben and Breslau were in the Black Sea. There were forts on both sides of the Bosporus, so the fleet would have been faced with a difficult problem to get through to the Black Sea.
Consideration of Object 2
The British Govt was under mounting pressure to increase the supply of ammunition and weapons to it own armies. On Gallipoli the field guns were limited to two rounds per gun per day for long periods. The production of high explosives had only started and shrapnel was valueless against trenches. Russian guns were all of different calibre. Russian rifles did not use .303 ammunition...rifles and ammunition would be needed. England was severely rationed and could not have furnished supplies even with the help of France and Italy in quantity. German influence in Bulgaria was too strong for a change of policy to be secured there. The concentration of shipping at the straits of Gibralter would have increased the submarine sinking rate.
Comment on the Strategy and Tactics
The assumption that the Govt and its armies would surrender and that the fleet would have safe passage for itself and its supplies was quite unreal. Liman Von Sanders, with HW in Constantinople commanded 1 and 5 armies. Strength about 160,000. The next strongest army 4 had HQ in Syria with responsibility excluding the coast down to the Suez Canal. Strength 105,000 but growing as it replaced Arab units with Turks and Kurds.
This army could claim success in its object, the prevention of the enemy movement across the canal.
The other Turkish armies need not have been called on for help in order to close the narrows behind the fleet. In order to protect the L of C through the Dardanelles and the Bosporus at the very least 15 full strength divisions in 4 groupls would have needed seperate L of C arrangements and separate reserves.
There is no valid reason to believe that the Turkish Govt would have surrended.
The operation was doomed to failure.