Learning Curve, The Great War
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Useful notes: Source1
Extracts from a British military intelligence report on the Gallipoli area, September 1914
(Catalogue ref: WO 106/1463)
  • This map of the Dardanelles was available to the British in 1914. The Dardanelles were the narrow straits of water between the Turkish mainland and the rocky peninsula of Gallipoli. Ships that sailed through the Dardanelles would then reach the Sea of Marmara and then Constantinople. On the other side of Constantinople was the Black Sea, which was dominated by Russia.
  • The British government had been interested in the Dardanelles and Gallipoli area for many years. For much of the 1800s, the British had supported the Turks because they wanted to stop Russia being able to send ships through the Dardanelles and into the Mediterranean. This would have been a potential threat to Britain's trade routes through the Suez Canal (in Egypt) to India. By 1914, things had changed. Russia was now Britain's ally and Turkey was allied to Germany.
  • Much of the information in this report probably came from British officers and agents based in Egypt, which was a British protectorate. These officers were investigating whether it would be possible to attack Turkey's capital by sailing up the Dardanelles. As well as damaging Turkey, capturing Constantinople would allow Britain and France to send ships carrying weapons and other supplies to their ally Russia.
  • The original plan was for Royal Navy ships to sail up the Dardanelles and destroy the Turkish forts and gun batteries, which were guarding the straits. However, this report was investigating whether it would be possible to land troops on Gallipoli to take control of the region after the navy had destroyed the forts. This source gives a clear indication of the scale of the problem and the strength of the Turkish defences.
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