december memories / 20

 NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN (ALMOST)

20th December, 1915 : In a laconic, single-sentence communique, the War Office in London this afternoon revealed that the ill-fated Gallipoli expedition had been abandoned after ten months of bad luck, muddle, indecisiveness – and outstanding heroism by British, Australian and New Zealand troops. The final act of evacuating some 90,000 men, with 4,500 animals, 1,700 vehicles and 200 guns was carried out with great skill and ingenuity, under the very noses of powerful Turkish forces. Not a single life was lost. Some 30,000 beds had been prepared for the wounded in Mediterranean hospitals, but these were not needed.

The evacuation was carried out at night-time. During the day, however, ships riding at anchor under Turkish observation could be seen disembarking troops and unloading guns and stores. The trick was that more men and materials were evacuated during the night than had been ostentatiously brought ashore during the day. At the last stages, at Anzac Bay, a destroyer trained its searchlight on the enemy trenches. While the Turks concentrated their fire on the destroyer, the troops were lifted off the beaches. As the last men were leaving, having set thousands of booby traps, a huge landmine exploded. The Turks, thinking the Australians were attacking, began a furious barrage of fire that lasted 40 minutes. Two soldiers left behind a message saying: “To Johnny Turk… You are a fair fighter. We appreciate the way you have respected the Red Cross”.

About Avadoro Worden

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