South African Military History Society


Our Lecturer for the 9th had unexpectedly been called away on SANDF matters, so our stalwart Battlefield Expert, Robin Smith, jumped in at the last minute by speaking on Gallipoli 1915.

No military campaing of modern times has had such an enduring fascination, with the exception of Stalingrad in 1943 perhaps, as the attempt by the British, Commonwealth and French forces to take the Dardanelles, first by sea and then on land to capture the Gallipoli peninsula. For Australians and New Zealanders it is sacred ground. With their small populations, scarcely a family did not have a member involved - too many did not return. For the Turks it was a glorious victory, but won at terrible cost.
Today Gallipoli is a wonderful place to visit. The peninsula is a national park, the land unsuitable for farming, and therefore very little development has taken place.

In 1914 a new war-strategy was needed to break the deadlock on the western Front and relieve pressure on the Russians who held their line in Galicia and Poland with difficulty. And so the idea of a combined naval and land attack on the Dardanelles was proposed by Winston Churchill. The idea was to capture Constantinople and force Turkey, an important ally of Germany who had opened up a front against Russia, out of the war. Originally the war council agreed on a purely naval attack, but when the Russians asked for some kind of demonstration to help them in the Caucasus, the deployment of an expeditionary force was considered. On 18 March a full-scale naval attack by 16 British and French capital ships was mounted, but the Turkish gunners sunk three of the battleships and put another three out of action for some time. Due to bad weather the action was not resumed.

It was six weeks later when the Anglo-French landings on the peninsula took place and there were moments when it seemed as if success was within grasp. But it was not to be. There were five separate landing beaches at Cape Helles on April 25th: S,V,W,X and Y beach. At V beach, soldiers packed in the collier S.S.River Clyde, which was purposely run aground, were met by murderous machine gun fire when they rushed from the ship. At the end of the day, almost half of the 2,000 strong force had either been killed or wounded. At W beach the situation was just as bad when the cutters carrying troops, suffered under the machine guns, forcing soldiers to jump into deep water. Weighted down by their equipment they drowned. In contrast, S,X and Y beaches were hardly defended by the Turks. But the ANZACs were landed on the least reconnoitred beach, hemmed in by cliffs and about a mile too far north. They were confronted by steep scrub-covered cliffs where they dug into the mountainside for shelter, and hoisted themselves up on ropes to reach trenches on top. In the end none of the Allied's objectives on the peninsula: occupying Krithia and Achi Baba were attained. Fighting carried on for the rest of the year, but the naval hopes of March and military hopes of April had both been dashed.

Robin has visited Gallipoli repeatedly, and from his minute knowledge was able to reconstruct the battlefields and battles for us. He illustrated his presentation with a superb collection of slides from old photographs and those he took during his trips, as well as detailed and excellent maps.

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FUTURE OF AFB YSTERPLAAT: The Chief of the Air Force, Lt-Gen Roelf Beukes, has announced that AFB Ysterplaat will be closing, and Air Force Station Ysterplaat will come into being from 1 Jan 2003. The station will host 22 Sqn, as well as 35 Sqn which will move over from CT Int Airport, and the future of the SAAF Museum is thus secure. For further details please contact the Scribe.


13 June
1) Ken Gunn/Paul Lange Memorial Address by Mac Bisset
2) OPERATIONS OF V-FORCE IN ARAKAN/SOUTHWEST BURMA 1942/43 (Japanese occupied territory)
Illustrated Lecture by Richard "Dickie" Bullen
11 July 2002
Illustrated Lecture by Col Lionel Crook
8 August 2002
Illustrated Talk by John Mahncke
12 September 2002
Illustrated Lecture by J.M. Sweeney
10 October 2002
Slide Show and Lecture on the GERMAN FLIEGERTRUPPE and ZEPPELINS: 1910 - 1918
by John Mahncke
November - To be advised
December - In recess

Meetings are normally held on the 2nd Thursday of each month, at 20h00 in the Recreation Hall of the SA LEGION'S ROSEDALE COMPLEX, Lower Nursery Road, Rosebank (off Alma Road), opposite Rosebank Railway Station. All visitors welcome. Tea and biscuits will be served.

Jochen (John) Mahncke (Vice-Chairman/Scribe) (021) 797 5167

South African Military History Society /