A Ballad for Çanakkale

A Ballad for Çanakkale

In March-April, Turkey marks the 104th anniversary of the victory in the Battle of Çanakkale, known in Europe as the Dardanelles Campaign. The operation, which lasted almost a year, became one of the turning points in the history of the First World War. The battle between the Entente powers (France and Britain) and the allies opposing them, Germany and the Ottoman Empire, which was waged both on land and at sea, was won by the Ottomans, and foreign troops were ultimately withdrawn from Turkey.

Thanks to the stubborn resistance of the Turkish soldiers, Britain and France failed to capture the Black Sea straits Bosporus and the Dardanelles, which have been of major strategic importance from ancient, connecting the Black and Mediterranean Sea, Asia and Europe.

The Ottoman Empire signed an allied treaty with Germany in August 1914. At first, the Germans did not take seriously the poorly armed and poorly trained Ottoman army, they just wanted the Turks to close the straits for the Entente powers. However, as Germany's difficulties on the eastern front started, the German General Staff started to consider the idea of the Ottoman Empire entering the war. German military instructors, as well as various specialists who trained the Turkish army and assisted the Ottoman state structures, including in planning the deportation of the Armenians from the eastern provinces, arrived in Istanbul and other Turkish cities, according to the author of the '1915 - Ottoman dossier' book Ali Hajizade.

A German general who served as an adviser and military commander to the Ottoman Empire during the First World War, Otto Liman von Sanders, wrote then: "If there is a soldier's happiness, then it is fighting shoulder to shoulder with the Turks. They were poor, slept in dugouts, but fought like lions. I have not yet seen such a people which face their death with a smile on their lips." They say that it was von Sanders who decided to appoint Mustafa Kemal (later known as Ataturk) as commander of the 19th Infantry Division, which eventually saved the Turks from imminent doom. The Battle of Çanakkale started with an attack by French and British troops, which planned to pass through the Dardanelles, seize Istanbul and deliver aid to the Russia ally. However, Mustafa Kemal's soldiers took up a defensive position above the Australians and New Zealanders, therefore the advance of the latter was hampered. (The French and British armies included soldiers from colonized Australia, New Zealand, Senegal and India).

The defense organized by Kemal Pasha was reliable and did not fail for the next five months.

The armies of virtually all the great powers conducted military operations against the Ottoman Empire, which was considered a backward, agrarian state by European standards, with a weak army, a weak economy and state apparatus. The Battle of Çanakkale was waged by (including the forces of dominions and colonies) 490 thousand British soldiers, about 80 thousand French soldiers, from Russia there was one cruiser. On the Turkish side, the line was held by the 5th Army.

The commander-in-chief of the English army, Sir Ian Standish Monteith Hamilton, who commanded the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force during the Dardanelles operation unsuccessful for the allies, wrote: "Hands of Turks, which use swords ruthlessly, heal wounds of defeated soldiers as skillfully." What surprised Hamilton was a routine for the Ottomans, who throughout their centuries-old history went through many wars, losing millions of people and learning invaluable lessons.

"Turkish soldiers do not know fear, they don’t know such a thing as defeat. The Turks are gentlemen of Asia," their opponents say, seeing the Ottomans fighting. The picture of Turkish boys with rifles behind their shoulders participating in a parade from which they go into battle for the Dardanelles, dated 1915, went viral these days.

According to historians, the Battle of Çanakkale reinforced the Turkish nation's confidence.

As many as 300 thousand people in the Ottoman Empire were killed. The 5th Army was actually drained of blood, but completed its task. The victory of the Ottomans in the Battle of Çanakkale gave the Turks a new hero - the young commander Mustafa Kemal, who still was to play his role in the global and Turkish history.

It's a video of the 'Çanakkale song' flash mob, prepared in the framework of the celebration of the victory's anniversary, showing people choked with emotions while listening to musicians.


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