Allied casualties, Dardanelles campaign, 1915-6

Died Wounded Total casualties
Britain 21255 52230 73485
France (est.) 10000 17000 27000
Australia 8709 19441 28150
New Zealand 2721 4752 7473
India 1358 3421 4779
Newfoundland 49 93 142

Source: Department of Veterans' Affairs, Australia.

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23 thoughts on “Allied casualties, Dardanelles campaign, 1915-6

  1. Ian Deans

    It's worth considering that - and these are very rough figures - the Australian population was about 4mn at the outbreak of war and total enlistment came very close to 400,000 - or 10% of the entire population. Something like 60,000 men were killed.

    Its not only the sacrifice that commands respect, but also the sheer numbers of people who joined to fight; their steadfast commitment to this country is astonishing.

  2. Post author

    Yes, Ian, very much so, and it's even more impressive when you consider that Australia was one of the few countries of any size to have an all-volunteer force throughout the war. (I think India qualifies too.)

    But Alan, I think, correctly picked up on my intent in this post (and I do have that book, Alan, but haven't read it, so don't really have an opinion on it), which was to point out that on ANZAC Day, you could be forgiven for thinking that Gallipoli was an all-Australian affair -- we know the Kiwis were there, obviously, but aren't really interested in their story; the British were there because they played cricket while our boys died; and Johnny Turk was there because you do need somebody to fight in a war. How many people attending the services and marches today know that the British took more than twice as many casualties as we did? How many know that the French were there at all, to say nothing of the Indians and Newfoundlanders?

    Similarly (and I'm not having a go at you!), it's true that 60,000 young men was a huge sacrifice for a small country to make. But Britain lost a higher proportion of its population to the war, and France's proportion of war dead was more than twice ours. In no way do I want to belittle the men who served, especially since it's a choice I've never had to make, but I just wish we collectively did a better job of placing our wartime contributions in their historical context. Then we might avoid publishing books with rubbish titles like Monash: The Outsider Who Won a War ...

    Hmm, maybe I should have put all that in the post instead :) On a lighter note, the prize for most egregious use of audio material today goes to local ABC radio's coverage of the ANZAC Day march, when they played a little assemblage of historic audio clips to give a flavour of 1940 -- Churchill's 'finest hour' speech, etc -- and ended it with the theme song from Dad's Army. Which was written in 1969!

  3. Chris Williams

    Peter Weir has a lot to answer for. Not only that, but he got the idea into Mad Mel's head that there's money to be made ahistorically bashing the Brits.

    I think that the point about Australia's population is well made. This also draws attention to Newfoundland, which probably got the worst proportional hit of them all, at Beaumont-Hamel on July 1st 1916.

  4. Ian Deans

    Today is not Gallipoli Day, but Anzac Day: where we express our gratitude for those who have distinguished themselves by fighting and dying under the Australian flag. Gallipoli was the first, and one of the bloodiest, battlefields and so it earns special recognition. But the day is about more than just Gallipoli (consider the coverage given to the ceremony at Villers-Bretonneux); it is a day to commemorate the sacrifice of our fighting men and to acknowledge the high price that has been paid for our freedom.

    Yes, men of many nations died on that peninsula and yes, they deserve recognition; but this day is ours to honour the fighting men of our own nation.

  5. Post author

    I'm not actually suggesting that we should be honouring anybody else on ANZAC Day. In fact, I think it's more that we should be doing a bit less honouring all round, and a bit more analysing. A bit less ritual recitation of timeworn phrases about the past and a bit more investigation into what actually happened, as far as that can be known. And I'd argue that placing the contributions of our veterans into their proper historical context would not diminish our appreciation of what they sacrificed -- just the opposite.

    But then, I'm an historian: I would say that.

  6. Don Smith

    Well Brett I do believe you should be honouring someone else on ANZAC Day. I'm a Kiwi who recently lived for 8 years in Melbourne (97-04) and was (initally surprised then) disappointed at the disregard for the NZ context in ANZAC Day commenorations and media coverage in Australia. Would it be un-Australian to recognise our joint commitment, leadership and loss?

    That said, the Gallipolli ceremonies seem more balanced, Aussie, Kiwi, Turk all together these days. But to your point, I wonder if the others get a look in.

  7. Post author

    Maybe it would be considered un-Australian. We've become a bit narrow and insular in our pride in recent times. (Or maybe it was always that way, I don't know.) I think the reaction would be that it's a day for Australians to remember, what's New Zealand got to do with it? I think that, if pressed, most Australians would recall that NZ was there with us at Gallipoli, but it's just not part of the way we in Australia think about ANZAC Day now, sad to say.

    It looks like there is a French service at Morto Bay and a general Commonwealth one at Cape Helles on 24 April each year. Because of that, the ANZ (and Turkish) character of the ceremonies at Anzac is probably not out of place.

  8. Don - In Sydney today a statue of a NZ soldier was unveiled at one approach to our ANZAC bridge. He faces his Aussie mate across the road. The statue has been paid for by the NSW government.

    The bridge is one of Sydney's busiest, and the statue will once again remind those who see it of the bonds between our countries wetted in blood.

  9. There's a picture of the statue here. Unfortunately, according to that report, even when trying to do the right thing we (meaning the NSW state government!) managed to offend Kiwis by not allowing the public to be present at the unveiling ceremony!

  10. I also received this comment from Pete Matcham, a New Zealander, by email:

    I'll just say in response to Ian Deans comment "... Gallipoli was the first, and one of the bloodiest, battlefields and so it earns special recognition. ..."
    that a) Gallipoli was not 'one of the bloodiest' battlefields either generically or for Australia specifically, and b) the predominance of the campaign for Australia and NZ has I believe more to do with C W Bean's reportage (see Reconsidering Gallipoli, Jenny Macleod), and the topography of the battlefield which allowed the ordinary troops to see, describe, and most importantly, photograph, what was going on. Whereas the Western front was miles and miles of sod all from the infantryman's eye level.

  11. Brett,

    In the couple of weeks lead up before ANZAC day there were prominent messages on the electronic signboards on approaches to the bridge saying something like, "26 April, bridge will be closed to traffic and public from xxam to xxpm."

    I remember thinking, "Closed to the public? Why would they close the unveiling of the stature to the public in addition to being closed to traffic?"

    I know that particular bridge has some security concerns attached to it - but certainly the organisers could have made it much clearer to the general public about what was going on and that public access would be denied. However in 25 years this little PR disaster will be forgotten, and those two statues will still perform their silent sentry duty in full view of thousands every day.

    With respect to the cult of ANZAC Day and how it is currently observed, the reasons are very complex, and partly attached to a jingoistic nationalism which has been growing in this land for a decade or more. Certainly the reportage of Charles Bean has been highlighted, and it certainly may have much to do with it. But the focus on that portion of Bean's work to the exclusion of much of this other work about the Western Front cannot fairly be blamed on Bean (not that Pete Matcham is trying to "blame" Bean)

    Bean's book, Letters From France can be read here:

    http://infomotions.com/etexts/gutenberg/dirs/1/8/3/9/18390/18390.htm

    and amongst his fine writing Bean includes this passage:

    ######

    In Gallipoli there were brigade headquarters in the actual fire
    trenches. From the headquarters of the division or the corps you could
    reach the line by ten minutes' hard walking, any time. It is a Sabbath
    day's journey here--indeed, the only possible way of covering the longer
    distances regularly is by motor-car or motor-cycle, and no one dreams of
    using any other means. Nearly the whole army, except the troops in the
    actual firing-line, lives in a country which is populated by its normal
    inhabitants.

    And--wherein lies the greatest change of all--the troops in the trenches
    themselves can be brought back every few days into more or less normal
    country, and have always the prospect before them at the end of a few
    months of a stay in surroundings that are completely free from shell or
    rifle fire, and within reach of village shops and the normal comforts
    of civilisation. And throwing the weather and wet trenches and the rest
    all in, that difference more than makes up for all of them.

    "You see, a fellow must look after himself a bit," one of them said to
    me the other day. "A man didn't take any care how he looked in
    Gallipoli; but here with these young ladies about, you can't go around
    like what we used to there."

    #####

    So Bean, at the time, considered the Western Front much more accessible than Gallipoli.

    [ New Zealand readers may like to check Chapter 9 of the book for Bean's description of a wood-chopping contest, won by a Maori team ]

    Also considering Bean's account of the Western Front elsewhere, I admire his description that Pozieres Ridge was "more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than any other place on earth."

    If my countrymen and women don't know that, it certainly is not the fault of Charles Bean. But again, surely, those like me who believe sacrifices made in war should be remembered and commemorated can be pleased that commemoration at Gallipoli on 25 April is no longer the province only of a few representatives as it was in April 1976 when just eleven people were there in body as this Office of Australian War Graves report by Janis Lloyd testifies:

    http://www.dva.gov.au/media/publicat/2004/OAWG_Journal_2004/OAWG_Journal_05_feature_articles.pdf

  12. Post author

    Thanks, Bob. I wonder why it is that we still talk about Bean so much today? I don't think any of the British historians of the First World War are much remembered there.

    That photo on p. 2 of your last link is amazing when you compare it to one taken at Lone Pine this year!

  13. Bean's enduring regard is due to two things. Both of them his labours of love, devotion and duty. Firstly his monumental Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918; secondly his efforts to have the Australian War Memorial become reality.

    I suspect the Official History is not much read these days even though it is still talked about, but the AWM has been in modern times year after year Canberra's number one tourist attraction. That's thousands of Australians brushing up against Bean's name in the AWM. Bean said of the AWM, "Here is their spirit." Well, Bean's spirit is there too.

    I'll add a third reason. Bean's WWI contemporaneous work was published in the Sydney Morning Herald, and leading up to ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day the SMH nowadays trots out pieces of Bean's work - thus keeping his name consistently in front of the wider public, let alone minority historians. The 4-page ANZAC Day supplement in the Sydney Morning Herald a few weeks ago held almost two full pages of Bean reprints.

    John Laffin's fine book "We Will Remember Them: AIF Epitaphs of World War I" records on p. 95 the epitah on the headstone of Private E. J. Taylor, 22nd Battalion:

    LOVES GREATEST GIFT, REMEMBRANCE

    Bean promulgated that gift.

    Bonus Bean link - Robert O-Neill's (1980) preface to Bean's Official History:

    http://www.awm.gov.au/histories/ww1/intros/preface.asp

  14. Post author

    It is big isn't it? Another pic at that site shows it off properly, I think.

    Thanks for your thoughts on Bean, Bob. I suppose I'm really asking from the point of view of a historian of Britain. I couldn't tell you off the top of my head who wrote the British official histories, except the air-related ones, and that's obviously because of my particular interests. I'm not British but I don't know that the average historically-aware Briton would do much better? Historiography has moved on since then. Maybe in Britain the official histories didn't key into the popular "myths" about the war (mud, futility, lions led by donkeys, etc) in the way that Bean's did in Australia (a nation comes of age, blood sacrifice, ...)? I don't know if there's an Australian Dan Todman but we could probably do with one.

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  16. doreen

    hello,
    can you help me to find out any information about my grandfather who was killed in the conflict at the dardanelles.
    his name was thomas henry thomas from north ormesby-middlesbrough.
    sorry,dont know his regiment(local ?)
    all help would be greatly appreciated,as i dont know where to begin ?

    thank you

    doreen

  17. Post author

    Doreen, I don't know much about researching British soldiers (I study British military history but I am Australian). But this may be a useful place for you to start: http://www.1914-1918.net/grandad/grandad.htm

    Also, I've had a look in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website and this entry would appear to be for your grandfather's grave: http://www.cwgc.org/search/casualty_details.aspx?casualty=607433
    That tells you that he was a private in the 6th Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment, died on 19 November 1915, and is buried at Hill 10 Cemetery at Suvla.

    I hope this helps!

  18. doreen

    hello brett,
    oh thank you very much indeed!
    i did,nt know a thing about him but this is superb!
    many thanks again for your reply.
    very much appreciated.

    regards

    doree

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