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First Battle of Krithia
Part of The First World War
Date28 April 1915
LocationHelles, Gallipoli, Ottoman Empire
Result Ottoman victory
Belligerents
 United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
 France
 Ottoman Empire
Commanders and leaders
Aylmer Hunter-Weston Colonel Halil Sami Bey
Strength
19 battalions, 13,500 men 9 battalions
Casualties and losses
3,000 casualties 2,378 casualties


The First Battle of Krithia was the first Allied advance of the Battle of Gallipoli during the First World War. Starting at Helles on 28 April, three days after the initial landings, the attack broke down due to poor leadership and planning, lack of communications and exhaustion and demoralisation of the troops.

Prelude

Map of the Helles war zone in 1915

On the morning of 25 April 1915, the British 29th Division under the command of Major General Aylmer Hunter-Weston landed on five beaches around Cape Helles at the southern tip of the Gallipoli peninsula in the Ottoman Empire. The main landings at 'V' and 'W' Beaches were hotly contested and the British suffered heavy casualties. A supporting landing made at 'Y' Beach on the Aegean coast to the north was made without opposition but the troops were without instructions so made no attempt to either advance or dig in. At that time, the first-day objectives of the village of Krithia and the nearby hill of Achi Baba were virtually undefended. When Ottoman reinforcements arrived the British were forced to evacuate the 'Y' Beach landing and so a major opportunity of early success was lost.

After heavy fighting, the British were able to secure the main landings. The French Corps expéditionnaire d'Orient division which had made a diversionary landing at Kum Kale on the Asian shore of the Dardanelles on 25 April had now moved across the straits to Helles to hold the right of the Allied line. By the afternoon of 27 April, the Allies were able to make an advance of about two miles up the peninsula towards Krithia in readiness for an assault on the following day.

The ferocity of the Ottoman defence of the landings led the British to grossly overestimate the opposition they faced. Believing at the time that the Ottomans were indifferent fighters, they assumed they were faced by two divisions whereas in reality they outnumbered the Ottomans 3 to 1 and were confronted by two weak regiments who resisted doggedly while waiting for reinforcements.

Battle

The battle commenced around 08:00 on 28 April with a naval bombardment. The plan of advance was for the French to hold position on the right while the British line would pivot, capturing Krithia and assailing Achi Baba from the south and west.

The overly-complex plan was poorly communicated to the brigade and battalion commanders of the 29th Division who would make the attack. Hunter-Weston remained far from the front; because of this, he was not able to exert any control as the attack developed.

The initial advances were easy but as pockets of Ottoman resistance were encountered, some stretches of the line were held up while others kept moving, thereby becoming outflanked. The further up the peninsula the troops advanced, the more difficult the terrain became, as they encountered the four great ravines that ran from the heights around Achi Baba towards the cape.

On the extreme left, the British ran into Gully Ravine which was as wild and confusing as the ground at Anzac Cove. Two battalions of the 87th Brigade (1st Border Regiment and 1st Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers) entered the ravine but were halted by a machine gun post near 'Y' Beach. No further advance would be made up the ravine until the 1/6th Gurkha Rifles would capture the post on the night of 12–13 May. This involved them going up a 300 ft vertical slope which had defeated both the Royal Marine Light Infantry and the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. The site became knowning as 'Gurkha Bluff'.

The exhausted, demoralised and virtually leaderless British troops could go no further in the face of stiffening Ottoman resistance. In places, Ottoman counter-attacks would drive the British back to their starting positions. By 18:00 on 28 April, the attack was called off.

Aftermath

14,000 Allied troops participated in the battle, suffering 3,000 casualties.[1] The scale and duration of the battle was minor compared to later fighting but the First Battle of Krithia was one of the most significant of the campaign as it proved that the original British assumption of a swift victory over an indifferent enemy was grossly mistaken. Thereafter, Helles would become the scene of numerous attrition battles and success would be measured by an advance of 100 yd (91 m) or the capture of a trench.

References

  1. The First Battle of Krithia, 1915 accessed 29 May 2010

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