“Explain the reasons why the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) failed to achieve victory at Gallipoli”
The Australian Imperial Force was the main expeditionary force of the Australian army in World War I. The campaign at Gallipoli in 1915 is regarded as one of the most spectacular failures of World War One. Numerous reasons evidently state why the AIF failed to achieve victory in Gallipoli. The AIF had a poor understanding of the nature of the terrain they were expected to fight on and this was influential in the in the defeat of the allied troops. The poor command and leadership of the army was evident with the lack of maps and the unsuccessful landing while it is also patent through the concerted but unsuccessful allied attempts to break through in the Australian attacks at the Nek. Poor planning and insufficient medical resources brought about a lack of provisions and engendered illness and disease. All these factors combined to play a role in the failure of the AIF to achieve victory at Gallipoli.
The allies had a poor understanding of the nature of the terrain they were expected to fight on and this was significant in their defeat. Both sides were aware that due to the terrain there were only a limited number of locations where the landing could be executed which were Cape Helles, Gaba Tepe and Kum Kale. Land system analysis demonstrates that these were disadvantaged by terrain, with steep, deeply-incised slopes and narrow beaches. Landings was further disadvantaged by inadequate mapping of the peninsula. Furthermore, constant readjustments and gradual northwards drifts meant that the troops landed too far to the north in a steep cove later renamed Anzac Cove, becoming easy targets for the Turks in their position from high up in the cliffs. The terrain is noted by Bean, “steep gravelly waterways … it was as much as a strong man could do.” However, Doyle disagrees stating, “The benefit of the terrain was not effective as there was no reconnaissance raids or other detailed observations.” Furthermore, the difficult landing at Anzac Cove is supported by Crampin, “…. a gradual northwards drift, meant that the troops landed too far to the north. While the view that the failure of victory at Gallipoli was caused by the mountainous terrain can be accepted it is also fair to agree that there were no raids as stated by Doyle. However, such unfair advantages to the Turks clearly puts the AIF in peril, clearly mentioned by Charles Bean. Thus, while Doyle’s view cannot be accepted by all historians, White states that although there was no surprise attack this did not amend the AIF vulnerability. Hence it is clear that the AIF were highly affected by a rigorous environment however, one must also acknowledge the poor command and leadership throughout the campaign clearly affected the AIF’s chance of victory.
Inadequate command and leadership was a significant factor in the failure of the AIF. The prime issue was the underestimation of the scale of what was needed and a lack of assessment by the allied leaders. Planning was rushed, leaving the Turkish defence with little difficulty in repelling allied attacks and inadequate mapping of the peninsula demonstrated a lack of clear objectives. The attack on the Nek on 7th of August 1915 stands as a key moment in the campaign highlighting the effects of a breakdown in communication. The poor judgement of the British Government is supported by Hart who emphasises that the British leadership had no coherent plan … and they had an uncultivated underestimation of the enemy. Barnett agrees, “everything about the campaign was too unrehearsed for it to have a chance of success. “De Groot contends, “The campaign was from the start starved of men, weapons, ships and supplies.” In contrast Von Sanders and Turkish commander Mustafa Kemal’s leadership has been praised as confirmed by Patton, “Had the two sets of commanders changed sides, the landing would have been as great a success as it was a dismal failure.” Hart argues, “Few military operations have begun with such a cavalier disregard for the elementary principles of war.” The significance of poor planning and leadership is further highlighted by Maxwell who further states that the whole thing was nothing but bloody murder due to miscommunications. Thus, many historians agree that the worthy leadership of the Turks clearly affected the AIF ability to achieve victory at Gallipoli. Poor planning and leadership is plausible in the AIF failure to achieve victory at Gallipoli however, a lack of basic medical provisions also attributed to this factor.
The Failure of the AIF can also be credited to the lack of basic medical provisions and the spread of disease. Inexperienced doctors, overcrowded base hospitals and a shortage of medication added to the many who were lost and significantly contributed to the failure of the campaign. The situation that there were limited medical provisions is supported by Hammer who debates that the allies had insufficient medical supplies in the field hospitals which contributed to leaving thousands injured pleading for water supplies until they perished. Steel concurs, arguing that “those in need could only expect minimal treatment unless they were in danger of expiring.” Poor medical care and a lack of sanitation resulted in the spread of disease reducing the number of troops able to sustain the front. Bean further notes that due to a lack of medical provisions, “The sick rate in the trenches were at least 660 a day.” Cleary ascertains that p[oor nutrition together with limited fresh water supply caused a rapid spread of disease that significantly contributed to the AIF failure of Gallipoli. Hence, minimal medical necessities and provisions left the AIF to diminish, plainly indicated by Hammer states why the AIF failed to achieve victory at Gallipoli.
The failure of the AIF achieving victory at Gallipoli is given by the poor command and leadership of the army through the lack of maps and the unsuccessful landing. This factor is clear through the concerted but unsuccessful allied attempts to break through in the Australian attacks at the Nek. Poor planning and insufficient medical resources brought about a lack of provisions and engendered illness and diseases. All these factors combined to play a role in the failure of the AIF to achieve victory at Gallipoli.