Churchill Archive for Schools - Themes_Key questions_wrong at Gallipol

What went wrong at Gallipoli in 1915?

Source 1

Telegram from Vice-Admiral Carden to Churchill setting out plans for Dardanelles, dated 11 January 1915


➜ CHAR 13/65/5-7

We've highlighted the parts of the document which appear in the transcription below.

Simplified Transcript

What can be done:
A. Total destruction of Turkish defences at entrance to Dardanelles
B. Clearing the defences on the shores in the Dardanelles
C. Destroying the defences in the Narrows Channel
D. Clear passage through minefields and advance towards Marmara

The time needed depends on the morale on the enemy and also the weather conditions. I estimate about a month. It’ll need a lot of ammunition and I’m preparing an estimate at the moment.

Original Transcript

Cypher A

52 Following by W/T from INDEFATIGABLE
(19) Secret and personal from [Admiral] V.A. Carden for First Lord. [of the Admiralty].
In reply to your telegram of 6th January.
Reference to N.I.. D. report number 638 Turkey Coast Defence 1908. Possibility of operations:
A. Total reduction of defences at the entrance.
B. Clear defences inside of Straits up to and including Osphes Point Battery No. 8.
C. Reduction of defences at the Narrows Chanak
D. Clear passage through mine field advancing through Narrows reducing forts above Narrows and final advance to Marmara.

Time required for operations depends greatly on morale of enemy under bombardment, garrison largely stiffened by the Germans, also on the weather conditions. Gales now frequent. Might do it all in a month about.

Expenditure of ammunition would be large. Approximate estimate of quantity required being prepared.

What is this source?

This source is a telegram sent by Vice-Admiral Carden to Churchill outlining his plans to attack the Dardanelles. It was one of a series of telegrams between Carden and Churchill. This one was replying to a query from Churchill about how he would get past the Turkish defences.

Background to this source

Admiral Carden commanded the naval forces at the Dardanelles and Churchill, as First Lord of the Admiralty, was trying to gain necessary intelligence in order to prepare adequately for the offensive. This intelligence was needed back in London, not only for the Admiralty, but for the entire Imperial War Council to understand the combined forces of the army and navy that would be needed to attack the Gallipoli Peninsula as well as the level and depth of Turkish defences.

The preparation required for the Dardanelles Operation was enormous. The concept was that the Allies would open up another front to stretch the German forces beyond breaking point. In order to gain approval for the campaign, Churchill had to have a well-laid-out plan with a good strategy as well as a complete understanding of the number of necessary components involved.

How can we use this source in the investigation?

Remember, we’re hoping that this source can be useful to us in investigating what went wrong at Gallipoli in 1915. Sources usually help historians in two ways:

Surface level

  1. What was Churchill asking Carden for?
  2. Was Carden able to answer Churchill’s questions?
  3. What did Carden need?
  4. Did Carden give any warnings?

Deeper level

Which of the inferences below can be made from this source?

On a scale of 1-5 how far do you agree that this source supports this inference? Which extract(s) from the source support your argument?
The planning for this operations seems thorough and sensible.

There is agreement that the Dardanelles attack should go ahead.

The Allies seem well informed about the Turkish defences.

The Allies have proper respect for their Turkish opponents.

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Need help interpreting the source?

  • There are quite a few abbreviations in the source: ‘W/T’ means Wireless Transmission or radio; ‘TB’ stands for Torpedo Boat
  • As historians, the key in reading this source is to remember that it’s just one telegram in a series going back and forth between Admiral Carden and Churchill. You can see the full exchange by going to the complete file of documents using the reference below.

Explore the guide to interpreting telegrams

➜ Source 2

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