Reports of Gallipoli landing
In the week following the 25th April 1915, The Brisbane Courier reported action at Gallipoli almost every day, providing more details of the landing and engagement as events unfolded. The first article, which appeared on 26th April, was very short, only a couple of sentences as details were scant and yet unconfirmed.
Unofficial reports are that a decisive action at the Dardanelles has begun. The Allied squadrons bombarded the Straits at various points west of Gallipoli, and a landing has been effected at three points — Cape Suvla and Bulair, Gallipoli Peninsula, and Enos (at the mouth of the Maritza, near Dedeagatch).
The next article, published on the 27th April, contained more details, and acknowledged the Dardanelles terrain as extremely challenging for the Allied forces. This article reported statements made by Mr. Ashmead Bartlett, who represented the London Press at the Dardanelles. Citing the unrelenting landscape and the Turks’ effective use of German guns, Bartlett reported the limited effect of Allied naval bombardment, and remarked that:
naval men were amazed at the small damage done to the Dardanelles forts by the bombardment, though their fire was completely silenced. Landing parties found that many of the guns were intact. The fire from the war ships drove the gunners in the forts at the Narrows from their guns to bomb proof shelters, but it is improbable that many of the guns were knocked out.
He believed that a powerful Allied army would certainly be required to force any favourable result, as the Allied naval forces were hampered by considerable opposition:
The chief obstacles in the future are mines, carried by a 4-knot current, torpedo tubes placed on both shores, concealed batteries of heavy howitzers, and batteries of field guns, which are able to move among the hills and attack the warships from unexpected spots. These batteries also inflict serious damage on the trawlers and destroyers which are engaged in mine clearing. A battleship has to score a direct hit on a gun before the gun is put out of action, if it is protected by well-constructed earth emplacements.
A third article, also published in The Brisbane Courier on 27th April, reported the content of an Admiralty and War Office communique. According to the communique:
the general attack on the Dardanelles by the allied fleet and army was resumed yesterday. The dis-embarkation of the army, covered by the fleet, began before sunrise, at various points in the Gallipoli Peninsula. Despite the serious opposition of the enemy, who were behind strong entrenchments and entanglements, this was completely successful, and before nightfall a large force had been established on shore. The landing of the troops continues.
The article also commented on General Sir Ian Hamilton’s presence at the Dardanelles, and speculated that the engagement so far had proceeded along these lines:
It is probable that the navy will be watching the lines of Bulair while a landing force is attacking the south-westerly end of the Gallipoli Peninsula in order to cover further landing operations. The attention of the Germans and Turks was diverted by feints to other points, giving the Allies in the Gallipoli Peninsula time to entrench, which they have done successfully.
A fourth article, published on 28th April, clearly reveals the extent to which information was already being ‘flavoured’ for public consumption. The action at Gallipoli was described as ‘successful’ - a ‘magnificent achievement’ where Allied troops had ‘won distinction’ through their ‘splendid gallantry’. The article reports that the Prime Minister, the Honourable Andrew Fisher, had announced in the House of Representatives that a cablegram had been received from the Secretary of State for the Colonies, dated London, 27 April. The telegram stated:
His Majesty's Government desire me to offer you then warmest congratulations on the splendid gallantry and magnificent achievements of your contingent in the successful progress of operations at the Dardanelles.
The Governor General sent a telegram in reply:
The Government and people of Australia are deeply gratified to learn that their troops have won distinction in their first encounter with the enemy. We are confident that they will carry the King’s colours to further victory.
At the time the article was published, the Government had not received any information regarding casualties, except death from sickness. The Minister of Defence further stated that time would be put aside to advise relatives of the deceased before any casualty lists were published. The true scale of losses on the Gallipoli Peninsula would not be known for several weeks, and the worst was most definitely yet to come.
Robyn Hamilton - QANZAC100 Content Curator, State Library of Queensland