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 Post subject: Military History Conferences
PostPosted: Thu Jan 01, 2015 2:58 pm 
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The Australian War Memorial is holding a conference Gallipoli 1915: a century on in Canberra at the Llewellyn Hall, ANU, 18-20 March 2015.

Full details and program are at

Naturally given the AWM's raison d'etre and international standing, the world's leading Gallipoli scholars will be there. And as the theme is "a century on", the conference will examine how and why we commemorate the campaign now.

There are already over 160 registrations for the conference and over 130 paid-up delegates.

Don't miss out.

 Post subject: Re: Military History Conferences
PostPosted: Fri Apr 03, 2015 12:06 pm 
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Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2007 5:52 pm
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Gallipoli 1915: a century on

Post 1 of a few (I hope)

The Australian War Memorial and the Australian National University hosted a centenary Anzac history conference in Canberra from March 18-20. The conference web site with the program, notes on the speakers and abstracts of their presentations is at

Each day of the conference had a theme - landing, fighting and remembering in that order. As usual with AWM/ANU conferences, the hosts were able to gather the world’s leading historians for the chosen theme. One of the pleasures of these conferences is the willingness of the SMEs to answer questions and discuss issues with all and sundry. So if you know your military historians, let me say in a juvenile boastful manner how great it was to have Robert O’Neill and Hew Strachan to myself for ten minutes to discuss British planning for economic warfare in 1914.

The conference naturally focused on Australian experience of Gallipoli and its extended aftermath. But speakers also covered the British, French, Turkish, Indian, Newfoundland and New Zealand experiences, although the NZ coverage was strangely thin.

The conference proceedings should be available within 12 months in hardback format.


1915: searching for solutions
Professor Sir Hew Strachan, University of Oxford

Strachan set out the political, strategic and operational context of the war in 1914-15 that led UK & FRA to decide on the Dardanelles campaign. Points included:

- Informed military leaders on each side expected a long war:
    - alliance structures meant defeating one enemy nation did not completely defeat the other side
    - large informed electorates (UK, FRA, GER) would not compromise on matters of principle
    - nature of war: Russo-Japanese war showed difficulty of trench warfare
- Political leaders accepted idea of long war, but hoped for some deus ex machina to resolve it
- WW1 was actually short by previous European standards (& current world examples)
- Industry adaptation to the demands of large scale industrial warfare was rapid
- National approach to war (UK, AUS until conscription referenda) better than party political (CAN - social division)
- Combatants still attempted to win while accepting struggle would be protracted
- Central Powers (GER, AUT-HUN, TUR) had good interior lines of communication
- Triple Entente (UK, FRA, RUS) had exterior lines of communication, so RUS access to warm water ports vital
- Entente strategy was for co-ordinated East, West & South attacks, but it didn’t have the military & logistic capacity to achieve that in 1915-16
- There was no real “Easterners vs Westerners” conflict within the Entente
- RUS 15 million troops, approx 40% men of military age; but RUS infrastructure, especially railways, more important than arms and soldier numbers
- UK, FRA approx 70% (80%?) men of military age in uniform
- Main effort of FRA obviously in FRA
- Main effort of UK also in FRA for logistic reasons
- Strategic challenge of 1914-15: integrating general staff into political universe
- von Falkenhayn’s (GER CoS) strategic views based more on political situation rather than operational; regarded UK as the real enemy; supported by the Kaiser, but not Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg
- Great GER victories in East 1914-15, but RUS not knocked out; GER reaches logistic limits
- TUR seeks to regain recent losses in Balkans by entering WW1
- TUR Caucasus campaign leads to RUS appeal to FRA/UK, which in turn leads to Gallipoli
- War aims can (& did) change once conflict underway
- TUR entry opens options for GER to break Entente encirclement in Near East and Mediterranean
- Decision of neutrals to enter war had big strategic implications for existing combatants
- 1915 strategic fronts: Balkans, Russia, Gallipoli
- 1915 tactical front: Western front - technical solutions rapidly evolving
- War became institutionalised in 1915, i.e. it became the fundamental national enterprise of each combatant

Points from Questions

Lack of national and alliance mechanisms for coherent strategy formulation meant the role of influential individuals was very important, e.g. Churchill, Kitchener, Ludendorf.
Even compared to today, economic knowledge was sophisticated enough to predict the likely success of the Entente’s blockade of the Central Powers.

Prelude to Gallipoli: the naval campaign to force the Dardanelles
Professor Christopher Bell, Dalhousie University, Canada

Bell detailed the strength of the Turkish Dardanelles straits defences, the operational difficulties in reducing them, and how haphazard naval planning and poor operational performance forced UK/FRA to land troops to complete the mission. Points included:

- TUR defences in the straits: 16 forts, 2 anti-sub nets, 11 lines of mines, over 350 mines
- Admiral Carden's original plan was for a slow and systematic clearance
- Churchill an enthusiastic risk taker; considered dreadnoughts not needed at Dardanelles (1 sent)
- Royal Navy sees need for Army to seize/hold ground
- Churchill’s low opinion of TUR fighting capability
- Churchill’s optimistic wishful thinking re political consequences of success
- Churchill’s plan B: just sail away, treat whole episode as a feint
- Outer forts reduced by capital ship gunfire by end of March 1915; ships outside straits had freedom to move, observe fall of shot, no EN subs, ships beyond TUR gun range
- Need to destroy each individual TUR gun; Royal Marines needed to finish job, increasing TUR land resistance
- Problems destroying inner forts:
    - limited room for ship movement within straits
    - TUR mobile land artillery
    - frail observation planes
    - minefields
- RN never previously had to sweep mines under fire; minesweepers inadequate (civilian fishing trawlers) and couldn’t be protected, only destroyed approx 4 of 350 TUR mines
- 18 Mar 1915 fleet attack:
    - aim to suppress TUR fire, sweep mines
    - fail: no mines cleared, 3 capital ships sunk, 4 capital ships badly damaged
- Churchill remained enthusiastic
- Admiral John de Robeck (replaced Adm Carden) then decided to use troops who were originally intended to occupy Istanbul

Points from Questions

Even had the Gallipoli peninsula been taken, the Turks would still have held the eastern side of the straits, making the minesweeping task extremely problematic and time consuming, and giving the Turks plenty of time to reorganise and consolidate new defences

A most necessary footnote: navigation and grounding of the Gallipoli campaign
Professor Tom Frame, UNSW (ADFA), Canberra

Using primary source documents and naval charts, Frame forensically refuted the claim (first made by the ANZAC commander Birdwood) that a current had taken the troops away from the intended landing place. Audience members provided additional references to other research that confirmed this conclusion.

Echoes from the deep: the wrecks from the Dardanelles campaign
Mr Selcuk Kolay OAM, Kolay Marine
Mr Savas Karakas, Iz TV

Kola and Karakas showed photographs and film of their underwater exploration work. They have used TUR, FRA, UK and AUS archives to direct their searches. The work is technically interesting for the complexity and depth (>50m) of their dives and their use of multi-beam scanning technology to locate and map the wrecks. They have produced a high quality large format book of the results.

Panel: Why did the landings fail?
Professor Robin Prior, Flinders University (chair)
Brigadier Chris Roberts AM CSC (retd)
Professor Keith Jeffery, Queens University, Belfast
Mr Jeff Cleverly, Office of Australian War Graves
Mr Kenan Celik OAM

The panel examined the actual landings on 25 April (and in August at Suvla) and the immediate following 24 hours. This session was an eye-opener for me, as I hadn’t appreciated the thinness of the TUR defences, nor the far-reaching consequences of the inexperience of the Anzac soldiers and commanders.

RP Landings overview
    - landing succeeded, exploitation failed
    - Adm Thursby refused night evacuation on evening of 25 April, thus allowing the Anzac legend to develop

CR The landing at Anzac: a battle mis-portrayed
    - popular reasons offered for failure not backed by evidence; no TUR machine guns at landing time
    - detailed description of TUR defending forces
    - Sinclair-McGlagan (CO 3 Bde) changes op from offensive to defensive - defeated whole point of campaign
    - initial TUR response holding action, not counter-attack (until 16.00)
    - ANZAC punched hole in light TUR screen but did not exploit due to lack of training esp. at command level

KJ The British landings at Cape Helles
    - short time for operational plan; lack of training; lack of integrated joint planning
    - poor communications technology
    - limited number of landing craft limits troop numbers
    - planning emphasis on landing, not subsequent actions
    - Gallipoli as pale reflection of Western Front
    - W Beach "6 VCs before breakfast"; successes for professionals

JC More than a sideshow: a reassessment of Suvla
    - need to take Kilid Bahr plateau
    - Hamilton remote from planning staff
    - pressure from Kitchener
    - Suvla & Anafarta Gap crucial to Hamilton’s aims for August offensive
    - Hamilton confused means with ends; expected more from Suvla than planning staff

KC Turkish responses
    - initial TUR force at Anzac 1 Coy, ~160 men, 1 PL 80 men forward, 1 PL in reserve
    - second Coy arrives 0800
    - 2 machine guns arrive 0900, no more until 27 April, only 4 machine guns per regiment

    - TUR alliance with GER in response to RUS/FRA/UK designs on Ottoman empire
    - UK maps show Anzac as “strong feint”
    - Anzac to Narrows 10 km, Cape Helles to Narrows 30 km
    - Corps cadre & Liman von Sanders ~ 60 km away at Gallipoli town
    - Anzac Cove as a fortress; difficult for Turks to evict Anzacs
    - KC believes landing elsewhere would have made TUR defence easier

Points from Questions

KC GER commander at Gallipoli Liman von Sanders not as important as Mustafa Kemal (TUR)
JC landings failed because did not achieve mission aim
CR as per JC; campaign couldn’t succeed at operational level


Any questions, queries or doubtful points?

To be continued ….

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