Evacuating Gallipoli

On November 12, 1915, Winston Churchill, one of the main architects of the Gallipoli campaign, resigned from the British Government and went to serve with the British army in France. It had been four calendar months since the landing at Gallipoli, with little progress made. This was in many ways the final sign of how unpopular, and untenable, the campaign had become. On November 22, Lord Kitchener advised that Gallipoli should be evacuated. This would involve taking off more than 93,000 troops, 200 guns and more than 5,000 animals as well as vast quantities of stores and ammunition.

The evacuation of positions on Anzac and Suvla proceeded over two weeks, and took place virtually without casualties. On the night of 19 and 20 December, the last Anzac and British troops were evacuated from Suvla and Anzac. Helles was to be retained for the moment, though it too would be evacuated before the new year of 1916.

Ironically the evacuation was the greatest Allied success of the campaign. Troop numbers had been progressively reduced since December 7, and cunning ruses, such as William Scurry's self-firing rifle, were used to fool the Turks and prevent them discovering that the Allies were departing. At Anzac, the troops would maintain utter silence for an hour or more until the curious Turks would venture out to inspect the trenches, whereupon the Anzacs would open fire. As the numbers in the trenches were thinned, rifles were rigged to fire by water dripped into a pan attached to the trigger. The entire Allied force was evacuated, but large quanties of supplies and stores fell into Turkish hands.

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