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Military Geography: The Influence of Terrain in the Outcome of the Gallipoli Campaign, 1915

Peter Doyle and Matthew R. Bennett
The Geographical Journal
Vol. 165, No. 1 (Mar., 1999), pp. 12-36
Published by: geographicalj
DOI: 10.2307/3060508
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3060508
Page Count: 25
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Military Geography: The Influence of Terrain in the Outcome of the Gallipoli Campaign, 1915
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Abstract

The Gallipoli Campaign of 1915 was one of the most strategically significant theatres during the Great War of 1914-1918. The land campaign followed the failure of the naval expedition which was intended to force the Dardanelles by sea power alone, silencing the Turkish forts on the narrows and forcing entry to the Sea of Marmara and ultimately to Constantinople (Istanbul). This paper examines the impact of terrain on the outcome of the land campaign. A land system analysis of the Gallipoli Peninsula was carried out, and five land systems, based on aspects of geology, geomorphology, hydrogeology and vegetation, were identified. The landings of 25 April 1915 were made at Cape Helles and Anzac Cove, with objectives to capture the high ground. The land system analysis demonstrates that these landing places were disadvantaged by terrain, with steep, deeply-incised slopes, narrow beaches and inadequate water supplies. A later landing at Suvla Bay in August 1915 had more terrain advantages, with wide landing beaches and locally available water supplies, but the tactical advantages of a lightly held terrain were not exploited. Overall, the Gallipoli Campaign failed primarily because of: inadequate planning and leadership by the Allied forces; poor communications; the efficiency of the Turkish armies in the siting of defensive positions according to terrain; the lack of detailed information with regard to terrain and geology available to the British and ANZAC troops; and a paucity of locally-derived groundwater supplies.

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