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Once the fighting on the Western Front had settled into siege warfare with no great advances on either side some British politicians wanted to break the deadlock by attacking the Germans through the back door and it would benefit Russia if Turkey could be knocked out of the war and a supply route opened up through the Black Sea. Kitchener and other military commanders disagreed but eventually had to acquiesce. The Ottomans had closed the Dardanelles the day after Britain had declared war on Germany, had mobilised their forces less than a month later and in October 1914 had attacked Russian ports. This led Britain to declare war on the Ottomans a week later.
In February 1915 the British navy attempted to attack Turkish forts guarding the Dardanelles and minesweepers began to clear the straits but the Turks forced a retreat. Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, critical of the lack of progress, replaced the commander of the fleet and a fresh attack was attempted with the loss of many lives and of several battleships; a naval attack could only succed with the help of ground troops and Sir Ian Hamilton, commander of British troops on the nearby island of Lemnos, was put in charge of the invasion but with a force half the size he had wanted.
Those who thought Allied troops could land on the Gallipoli Peninsula, occupy it and disable the seaward defences in a matter of days were wrong. Mustafa Kemal Pasha (Kemal Ataturk), commander of the Turkish 19th Division, was arguably the greatest military leader his country has ever produced (he was later to become 'the father of the nation') and from April 1915 to January 1916 the pattern of fighting in Gallipoli was to replicate the stalemate on the Western Front.
By 26 April 1915 the Allies had established themselves along the Peninsular but soon afterwards Hamilton urgently requested reinforcements. It was to be some time before they arrived; most of the 30,000 men landed in August 1915 but 13th Division landed in July. The Poet Rupert Brooke had been on his way to take part in this offensive when he died from blood poisoning aboard a French hospital ship moored off the Greek island of Skyros.
Many ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) soldiers saw action in Gallipoli but, contrary to popular myth, this was not just an ANZAC affair - in fact they were outnumbered not only by the British but also by the French - but the stories of the horrific conditions are true; almost 60% of the approximately half a million Allied soldiers involved in this campaign became casualties of war or of disease.