Gallipoli 1915 August Offensive Centenary Commission of Inquiry
Stop Traveller! This ground you come and tread on. Once witnessed the end of an era.
The Royal United Services Institute of New South Wales Military History Special Interest Group staged a Commission of Inquiry into the failure of the Allied offensive on Gallipoli in August 1914. Drawing on evidence from both sides which has come to light since the official histories were written, the Commissioner, assisted by Counsel Assisting, examined witnesses representing the senior officers from the Allied and Turkish sides with a view to eliciting the causes of the failure of the Allied offensive and the lessons of enduring strategic and operational import to emerge therefrom.
All those who prepared for and participated in this dramatis personae are members of the Royal United Service Institute of New South Wales.
A comprehensive report on the proceedings will be published in a monograph and in the Institute's journal United Service.
Please use the audio and video controls as required. You will need to pause one audio or video before starting the next to avoid both playing at once.
The Situation at the beginning of the August Offensive, Gallipoli 2015 prepared by Lieutenant Colonel Peter Sweeney RFD. Peter is a retired Army Reserve infantry officer who rose to command the Officer Cadet Training Unit. He is an accountant in civilian life and is also a battlefield guide and military historian. Please use the button below to download the Report.
Introductory remarks by Major General Paul Irving AM PSM RFD. Paul is a former Army Reserve signals officer who rose to command the 8th Signals Regiment, the 8th Brigade and the 2nd Division. In civilian life, he was a senior human resources manager in the NSW Public Service who became an Assistant Commissioner in the Department of Corrective Services. He is a Vice-President of the Institute, National President of the Defence Reserves Association and Representative Colonel Commandant of the Signal Corps.
Commissioner’s Opening Remarks
Opening remarks by the Commissioner, Brigadier The Honourable Alan Abadee AM RFD QC, a retired senior barrister who became a justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales and Deputy Judge Advocate General of the Australian Defence Force.
The Ground Brief was presented by Lieutenant Colonel John Howells RFD is a retired Army Reserve Armoured Corps officer who became second-in-command of the 1st/15th Royal New South Wales Lancers and Chief Instructor at the Reserve Command and Staff College. In civil life he worked for the National Archives as a manager then major Banks managing IT systems. He is now a battlefield guide, military historian and webmaster.
The ground brief can be viewed below.
Counsel’s Opening Address
The Counsel, Colonel Andrew Morrison RFD SC a Senior Counsel at the New South Wales Bar who has served two terms as an acting District Court judge delivered his opening address. He is also Queen’s Counsel in Tasmania and Western Australia. He is an Army Reserve infantry officer who rose to command the 2nd/17th Battalion, Royal New South Wales Regiment. He has a PhD in law from the University of London.
Witness: General Liman von Sanders – Dramatised by Lieutenant Colonel Paul Simadas RFD
Otto Liman von Sanders was born on 17 February 1855 in Stolp, Pomerania. He joined the army in 1874, and rose to the rank of general. In December 1913 he was posted to Turkey to oversee the reorganisation of the army of the Ottoman Empire, after it suffered major defeats in the Balkan Wars of 1912. Prior to the outbreak of the First World War he worked to improve the Ottoman Turkish army’s fighting capabilities.
In anticipation of an Anglo-French landing, the Fifth Army was created, for the defence of the Dardanelles, on 25 March 1915 and he was given command. His handling of the Army was tactically and technically brilliant, including his recognising the potential of the young Mustafa Kemal and his appointment of the junior lieutenant colonel to Divisional command.
He was later to see service in Palestine. After the Armistice von Sanders oversaw the repatriation of German troops who had served in the Middle East. The British arrested him in February 1919 on suspicion of war crimes, but he was released six months later. He retired from the army and died at Munich on 22 August 1929 at the age of 74.
Paul Simadas von Sanders' dramatic persona is a currently-serving Army Reserve infantry officer.
Witness: Colonel Mustafa Kemal – Dramatised by Lieutenant Colonel Jim Sinclair RFD
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881 – 10 November 1938) was an army officer, revolutionary statesman, and founder of the Republic of Turkey as well as its first President. He was already an experienced battlefield commander. Famous for his order "I don’t order you to fight, I order you to die. In the time it takes us to die, other troops and commanders can come and take our places." on 25 April 1915; in August his handling of the Turkish reserve was brilliant. Across the battlefield reminiscent of Wellington and Romel, he had a knack of being in the right place at the right time to influence outcomes.
After achieving immortality at Chunuk Bair, and leading the charge to retake the key terrain on 10 August he had the reputation essential to re-build his nation after the ravages of war. He died on 10 November 1938, at the age of 57.
Jim Sinclair is a currently-serving Army Reserve intelligence officer who is on fulltime service with Headquarters Forces Command where he is developing an adversary doctrine. In civilian life, he is a librarian in the State Records Authority of NSW.
Witness: General Sir Ian Hamilton – Dramatised by Major John Hitchen RFD
Born on 16 January 1853 in Corfu, General Sir Ian Hamilton served in numerous campaigns and roles in India and Africa in a military career which began in 1873. Having served in Afghanistan in 1878, he was appointed Lord Kitchener's Chief of Staff during the South African War of 1899-1902.
He was made Commander in Chief of British forces in the Mediterranean in 1910, and therefore the logical choice to be placed at the head of the expeditionary force assembled in 1915 for the invasion of Turkey.
Hamilton spent six fruitless months unimaginatively bombarding the Turks at Gallipoli, making little progress but incurring severe casualties. He nevertheless remained optimistic with regard to the overall success of the plan, to the point of opposing Cabinet moves in London to initiate an evacuation.
Made a scapegoat for the failure of the operation, he saw little further combat service, he died on 12 October 1947 in London.
John Hitchen is a former Army Reserve infantry officer who was an industrial chemist in civilian life. He is now a battlefield guide and military historian.
Witness: Lieutenant General Sir Frederick Stopford – Dramatised by Dr Tony McArthur
Lieutenant General Sir Frederick William Stopford, KCB, KCMG, KCVO (2 February 1854 – 4 May 1929) had seen service in many campaigns from Suakin to the Second Boer War in administrative capacities.
Appointed General Officer Commanding IX Corps, was blamed for the failure to attack following the Suvla Bay Landing in August 1915 during the Battle of Gallipoli; however, responsibility ultimately lay with Secretary of State for War Lord Kitchener, who had appointed the elderly and inexperienced general to an active corps command, and with Sir Ian Hamilton, who had accepted Stopford's appointment. Stopford had chosen to command the landing from the sloop HMS Jonquil, anchored offshore, but slept as the landing was in progress. He retired in 1920.
Tony McArthur is an educator and military historian who holds a PhD in history from the University of Sydney. He is a former Army Reserve officer having served in the 1st/15th Royal New South Wales Lancers.
Witness: Lieutenant General Sir William Birdwood – Dramatised by Lieutenant Colonel Ron Lyons RFD
Born 13 September 1865 at Kirkee, India, he was educated in England. A Sandhurst graduate, he served in India and on Lord Kitchener's staff during the second Boer War. When the First World War began, Britain's Minister for War, Lord Kitchener, placed Birdwood in command of the Australian and New Zealand forces bound for Europe. At Gallipoli he impressed the men by regularly visiting the front lines and taking daily swims in the sea. His willingness to support those he commanded, to argue on their behalf and indeed to make it known that he had done so, earned Birdwood a respect from Australians that was given to few British senior commanders.
He retired from the military in 1930 and died in London on 17 May 1951.
Ron Lyons is a former Army Reserve infantry officer who served in the 4th Battalion, Royal New South Wales Regiment and various staff/training postings before becoming Chief Instructor of the Regimental Training Unit. He is a tour leader and battlefield guide, and member of the International Guild of Battlefield Guides. In his civilian life, he operates a consultancy in workplace logistics systems.
Witness: Major General Sir Alexander Godley – Dramatised by Brigadier Bryce Fraser RFD ED
General Sir Alexander John Godley GCB, KCMG (4 February 1867 – 6 March 1957) was a senior officer in the British Army. He is best known for his role as commander of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force and II Anzac Corps during the First World War.
Born in England in 1867, Godley joined the British Army in 1886. He fought in the Boer War and afterwards served in a number of staff positions in England. In 1910 he went to New Zealand as Commandant of the New Zealand Military Forces. Promoted to temporary major general, he reorganised the country's military establishment. Following the outbreak of the First World War, the New Zealand government appointed him as commander of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, which he led for the duration of the war.During the Gallipoli campaign, General Godley commanded the composite New Zealand and Australian Division.
After the war he was Governor of Gibraltar for five years until his retirement in 1933. During the Second World War he commanded a platoon of the Home Guard. He died in 1957 at the age of 90.
General Godley's dramatic persona, Bryce Fraser is a former Army Reserve infantry officer who rose to command the 4th Battalion, Royal New South Wales Regiment and the 5th Brigade. In civilian life he was the general manager of a major health insurance organisation. Since retiring, he has gained a PhD in military history from the University of Wollongong.
Witness: Major General Herbert Cox – Dramatised by Colonel Joseph Matthews
Cox was born in Watford, the son of the Rector of Upper Chelsea. He was educated at Charterhouse and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, and was commissioned into the 25th Foot (later the King's Own Scottish Borderers) in 1880.
Most of his service was in the Indian Army. He commanded the 29th Indian Brigade at Gallipoli. During the assault on Hill 971 he was given control of Monash's 4th Brigade where his micro management of the officer who was to rise high later led to some controversy.
During the re-organisation of the Australian Imperial Force in Egypt after the Gallipoli campaign, he was appointed to command the newly-formed 4th Australian Division, which he took to France, 1916. He remained with the division through its first month of campaigning and early in 1917, he left the Australian Imperial Force to become Military Secretary at the Indian Office. He died in England 8 October 1923.
Joseph Matthews is a retired regular Indian Army officer, an infantryman who rose to command a battalion. Now resident in Australia, he is a financial crime analyst. As well as being a member of the Institute, he is a life member of the United Service Institution of India, an alumnus of the Indian Defence Services Staff College and holds a Master’s Degree in Defence and Strategic Studies.
Witness: Brigadier General John Monash – Dramatised by Colonel John Hutcheson MC
Brigadier General Monash, an Australian citizen soldier and engineer had his first experience of combat at Gallipoli. He and fellow Brigadier Colonel Chauvel had organised the successful defence of the valley that now bears his name during the Turkish May offensive. The August offensive found Monash placed under another brigade commander Major General Cox whose micro-management of his brilliant subordinate proved disastrous.
General Monash later in the war commanded the Australian Corps in France and was judged the most proficient general on either side during the conflict. Should the war have lasted ‘till 1919, he would have most likely succeeded Haig as the commander of the BEF with promotion to Field Marshall. Cox, his nemesis at 971 finished the war as a Major General.
When the war was over the General faced new challenges. He established the state wide electricity supply system in Victoria using brown coal technology, and was called on to solve problems within the Victoria Police. This great Australian passed away on 8 October 1931, aged 66.
The honour to be General Monash's persona fell to John Hutcheson a former officer of the Australian Regular Army and the Army Reserve. An engineer and commando, he won the Military Cross in Korea and also saw active service in Malaya and Vietnam. With a PhD in construction financial management, he is now a part-time university lecturer and building consultant. He is a Vice-President of the Institute.
Counsel’s Closing Address – Colonel Andrew Morrison RFD SC
The Inquiry’s Findings – Brigadier The Honourable Alan Abadee AM RFD QC
Please note that this recording was truncated due to a technical difficulty.
The Rest of the Team
Those who took part in the dramatis personae were supported by other RUSI of NSW members:
Lieutenant Colonel Ian Watkins RFD ED, a former Army Reserve electrical and mechanical engineer who is now a regular battlefield tour participant.
Lieutenant Colonel Ken Broadhead RFD, a former Army Reserve artillery officer who rose to command the 133rd Divisional Locating Battery and 23rd Field Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery. An economist and retired Reserve Bank officer, he is a Councillor of the Institute, chair of the Finance Committee, and co-ordinator of the lectures and seminars program.