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The campaign that defined a nation

1915: Australian troops land at Gallipoli

Australian War Memorial H03574
1900 2000

Use the following additional activities and discussion questions to encourage students (in small groups or as a whole class) to think more deeply about this defining moment.

Questions for discussion

1. Gallipoli was a military failure which led to more than 26,000 Australian casualties, including more than 8000 deaths. Why do you think Australians still commemorate the Gallipoli landing?

2. Look at the websites below to learn more about the Aboriginal soldiers who served at Gallipoli. Why do you think First World War Aboriginal soldiers and their stories have only come to light in more recent times?

 

Australian War Memorial 

State Library of Queensland

3. Do you agree with the National Museum of Australia that the Gallipoli landing is a defining moment in Australian history? Explain your answer.

Image activities

1. Look carefully at all the images for this defining moment. Tell this story in pictures by placing them in whatever order you think works best. Write a short caption under each image.

2. Which three images do you think are the most important for telling this story? Why?

3. If you could pick only one image to represent this story, which one would you choose? Why?

Finding out more

1. What else would you like to know about this defining moment? Write a list of questions and then share these with your classmates. As a group create a final list of three questions and conduct some research to find the answers.

<p>Two soldiers cutting up barbed wire for jam tin bombs, Gallipoli, 1915</p>
Australian War Memorial, G00267

In a snapshot

On 25 April 1915 during the First World War, Australian and New Zealand soldiers landed at what is now called Anzac Cove on the Gallipoli Peninsula. By that evening 2000 of them had been killed or wounded. The Gallipoli campaign, which lasted nine months, was a military failure. But the Australian soldiers’ behaviour — bravery, ingenuity, endurance and mateship — are now thought of as defining aspects of the Australian character.

Two soldiers cutting up barbed wire for jam tin bombs, Gallipoli, 1915

Findout icon Can you find out?

1. Why were Australian troops sent to Gallipoli?

2. Where did the Australians land, and what happened as a result?

3. How long did Allied forces spend on the Gallipoli Peninsula, and what was the result of the Gallipoli campaign?

Why did the Allies land at Gallipoli?

On 25 April 1915 16,000 ANZAC soldiers landed at what later became known as Anzac Cove on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey, part of the Ottoman Empire. This was part of an attempt by Britain, Australia and other nations to defeat the Ottoman Empire during the First World War (1914–18).

To reach the Turkish capital the Allies tried to force their way through the narrow corridor of ocean known as the Dardanelles. After failing to get through using ships, the Allies decided that troops would have to land on the peninsula to defeat the Turkish defences.

‘It lay in the mettle of the men themselves. To be the sort of man who would give way when his mates were trusting to his firmness … to live the rest of his life haunted by the knowledge that he had set his hand to a soldier’s task and had lacked the grit to carry it through—that was the prospect these men could not face. Life was very dear, but life was not worth living unless they could be true to their idea of Australian manhood.’

Official war correspondent, Charles Bean

What happened when they landed?

British and French forces landed at Cape Helles, while the ANZACs landed on the west coast. But, in the early morning darkness, the ANZAC troops landed about one kilometre north of where they had meant to land, in a steep and rugged terrain. On the beach many soldiers became separated from one another as they began moving up the steep and rocky hills and valleys.

Turkish resistance was strong and they attacked the ANZACs with heavy artillery (large cannon-like guns) from higher ground. By mid-morning more Turkish troops had arrived.

The Turks mounted a fierce counter-attack, regaining a lot of the ground the ANZACs had taken, but the ANZACs held on. By that first evening 16,000 men had landed, but more than 2000 had been killed or wounded.

Research task

 

Use Google maps to locate the Gallipoli Peninsula, the Dardanelles and the Turkish capital Istanbul (once called Constantinople). Why would a successful attack on the Gallipoli peninsula help to capture the Turkish capital?

Google maps

Why did the Allies leave?

For the next eight months the ANZACs did not advance any further than they had on the first day. The British and French forces also couldn’t break out of their positions. By November, with more Turkish reinforcements and German equipment in place, Lord Kitchener, the British chief of staff, recommended an evacuation. This was agreed to and by late December the ANZACs were successfully evacuated with hardly any casualties, followed by all remaining Allied troops in January 1916.

Research task

 

When was the first commemoration of Australia’s involvement in the First World War and the Gallipoli landing?

<p>Group portrait of medical staff who sailed with the First Expeditionary Force onboard HMAT <em>Omrah</em>, September 1914</p>

Australian War Memorial, H18776

<p>Group portrait of medical staff who sailed with the First Expeditionary Force onboard HMAT <em>Omrah</em>, September 1914</p>
Sketch of a sentry standing in the pouring rain at Gallipoli, 1915.

What is the importance of Gallipoli?

Approximately 60,000 Australians fought at Gallipoli; of these around 8000 were killed and 18,000 wounded. At least 50, and possibly as many as 70, of those who fought were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, despite them being excluded from citizenship at the time. On the Turkish side 85,000 troops were killed helping to defend their homeland.

The landings at Anzac Cove took place only 14 years after Australia became a nation in 1901. Although the Gallipoli campaign was a terrible military failure, the bravery, ingenuity, endurance and mateship shown by the ANZACs at Gallipoli, under horrific conditions, have come to be celebrated as defining characteristics of the Australian people.

 

Read a longer version of this Defining Moment on the National Museum of Australia’s website.

Findout icon What did you learn?

1. Why were Australian troops sent to Gallipoli?

2. Where did the Australians land, and what happened as a result?

3. How long did Allied forces spend on the Gallipoli Peninsula, and what was the result of the Gallipoli campaign?