Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Climax at Gallipoli - Rhys Crawley

Title: Climax at Gallipoli

Author: Rhys Crawley
ISBN: 978-0-8061-4426-9
Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press
Pages: 364
Photo's/Maps: 10/9 

In August, 1915, the Allies launched a joint operation in the Dardanelles with a view towards striking eastward across the Gallipoli Peninsula and securing the strait for a naval thrust into the Black Sea. Ultimately, the idea was to crush Constantinople (the capital of the Ottoman Empire), force them out of the war and to open a logistics supply line to the Russian Empire. Driving inland from ANZAC Cove and Suvla Bay, the Allies came up against a well led, motivated, entrenched and well supplied Ottoman defender and were defeated after a valiant but hopeless battle that left tens of thousands wounded and dead.  

Contemporary literature has suggested that, while the Allies were not successful, it was a very close run thing and that had luck been a little more on the side of the Empire, victory was well within their grasp. The author has undertaken a study of the August Offensive with a view to determining whether in fact it was an 'almost' victory. His conclusion is that not only was it not but that it never really had a chance at all and should never have been attempted in the first place. 

The authors approach to his evaluation is both technical and belies a knowledge of the intricacies of military operations. He commences his review with a macro explanation of the region, the political pressure leading up to the engagement from London and an evaluation of the key personalities involved on the army and navy side. He then looks into a series of key facets to any successful operation: planning, combined operations, operational and tactical logistics, fire support and mobility.  

Within each, he analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of the capabilities and assumptions made by the planners and how these translated into practical applications as the operation unfolded. As examples of key failures he notes the following (and this list is not exhaustive): 

            1. A failure of the army and navy commanders to identify expectations and assumptions to one another, nor to develop a common vision or plan;

            2. A failure of logistics due to: long lines of communications, a convoluted command (and therefore demand) structure, lack of preparation and development of adequate intermediate staging bases and insufficient capacity or room on landing beaches for effective receipt and onward movement of supplies;

            3. Undeveloped or tested doctrine for the complexities of amphibious and joint operations;

            4.  A lack of appreciation of the requirements of naval and artillery fire support, its limitations and the lack of a common operating picture for communications and fire missions; and

            5. A complete disregard for the capabilities of the Ottoman forces facing them. 

Each of these areas in and of themselves would have endangered the success of the August Offensive, taken together, they crushed any chance of victory. 

Crawley's book is an excellent study of the shortfalls of the August Offensive; its assumptions, planning deficiencies and doctrinal holes. His study is balanced and instructive but damning in its revelations. For military planners it is an outstanding example of capability falling far short of intention but not being recognized or accepted by those in charge. Additionally, the author has provided a comprehensive bibliography and notes section that provides the reader extensive opportunity for further study. The August Offensive should be studied and reviewed by future commanders for the lessons that it imparts and the tragedy that it was. Well recommended.



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