Gallipoli was a horrifically bloody sideshow to the main battles of World War I. The British and French thought they could knock Ottoman forces out of the war and control the Middle East if they could seize control of the Dardanelles Straight connecting the Mediterranean and Black Seas and then capture the Ottoman capital of Constantinople (now Istanbul). The Allied attack was spearheaded by Australian and New Zealander troops, known as ANZAC, against the Turkish Army.
The eight-month campaign was a calamitous defeat for the Allied forces and a terribly costly victory in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire. Each side lost over 56,000 dead and over 100,000 wounded.
The date of the landing, April 25, is remembered as Anzac Day in Australia and New Zealand, their main World War I commemoration day. It is also observed solemnly together by Turks, Australians, and New Zealanders in poignant reconciliation. For Australia and New Zealand the battle of Gallipoli played a role in their becoming independent nations, and for Turkey it propelled the Ottoman commanding general Mustafa Kemal Ataturk into political prominence that led to the founding of modern Turkey.
Eric Bogle’s song “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda” has become a folk music classic about the folly and horrific price of war as experienced through the life of an Australian soldier. The Celtic punk band The Pogues covered it, as did Joan Baez and Liam Clancy among others. Bogle was inspired to write the song watching old veterans march during an Anzac Day observance. “And the young people ask, what are they marching for, and I ask myself the same question.”
Eric Bogle in concert playing “The Band Played Waltzing Matilda”
Bogle’s song with WWI photos:
Liam Clancy’s version: