Gallipoli
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During the Great War (AKA: World War I or the First World War as it was called many years later) a rift developed in the Allied high command between two factions. The first of these were the 'Westerners' such as Field Marshall Douglas Haig who believed that the war could only be won by confronting the Germans head-on in France and Belgium. The second was the 'Easterners' including future British Prime Ministers Winston Churchill and David Lloyd George who hoped to break the bloody deadlock and avoid the massive casualties of the Western Front's trench warfare by attacking Germany's allies at their supposed weak points elsewhere. Gallipoli was Winston Churchill's brainchild, envisaging that it would knock Turkey (then offically called the Ottoman Empire) out of the war and relieve intense pressure on a tottering Czarist Russia whose defeat would be a calamity for the Allies. Ironically whilst the campaign would become a byword for senseless slaughter in the popular imagination its' intention was to save lives by finding an easier alternative to attacking the heavily fortified German trenches in Western Europe which had resulted in so many allied deaths.

Why did it fail?

The Allies overestimated their ability to force their way through the straits of the Dardenelles and underestimated the ability of the Turks to keep them pinned down on the beaches. Plus, all of the operations were so poorly planned and carried out that any chance of victory was wasted. As a result they endured massive casualties, unable to break through into open country and advance toward their intendend objectives. The battlefield on Gallipoli settled into the stalemate of trench warfare as seen in France on the Western front as well as other fronts. Although the film concentrates on the Australian forces it was the British Army and Royal Navy who were the most involved and suffered the most deaths.

What happened afterwards?

Eventually after eight months of conflict and stalemate (from April 25, 1915 to December 1915-January 9, 1916), the Allies withdrew from Gallipoli sustaining very few casulaties in the process; an evacuation operation which was considered a miraculous triumph. As a result of the failure of Gallipoli, Winston Churchill would resign from the government and spend a year serving as a battalion commander in the trenches. Australian and New Zealand forces would be redeployed to the Western Front in Europe whilst Britain would continue to fight Turkey in Palestine and Mesopotmia and eventually knock her out of the war in October 1918. However this came too late to save Czarist Russia which fell in late 1917 releasing hundreds of thousands of German troops who mounted a massive last ditch offensive in the West in the spring of 1918, bringing the Allies to the verge of defeat. The Westerners were ultimately proven correct as reinforcements were diverted from other fronts in order to eventually repel it. The Australian and New Zealand army corps (ANZACs) played a key role in saving France and Belgium and in the successful offensives which threw the Germans back afterwards, ending in Germany's final surrender in November 1918.

One criticism of the film was that it concentrated purely on the Australian forces, ignoring the contributions of British, French, and New Zealand troops. Another was that it had a percieved anti-British bias, perpetuating the conspiracy theory that young Australians were callously sacrificed by incompetent British officers in a meaningless bloodbath. Critics pointed out that any unsympathetic Australian officers were invariably depicted with upper class English accents. The officer who orders the disasterous attack at The Nek was portrayed as British in the film but was actually Australian in real life (a distortion director Peter Weir later publicly stated he regretted). In reality many more British troops would die at Gallipoli than Australians.

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