The First Amphibious Mission: A New Way to Wage War the Battle of Gallipoli, 1916

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In World War I the Allies had suffered a huge defeat in a naval attack on the strategically significant Ottoman port of Istanbul. Control of the port was crucial as it is at the gateway between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. The Allies suffered a crushing blow when almost one third of their deployed naval fleet of 85 ships was destroyed.

The Allies refused to accept this humiliating defeat and immediately another attack was ordered. The tactic was different this time. An amphibious attack was planned involving 75,000 Allied troops.

Amphibious attacks were an untested military concept. The mission was in many ways doomed from the start – the Allies were given only 5 weeks to plan and execute this new form of attack. This was not long enough to plan an operation of this complexity, but it gave the Ottoman forces a great deal of time to fortify their defenses.

Another problem was one of communication. The Mediterranean Expeditionary Force of some 75,000 men was comprised of troops from many different countries. The glaring issue was that many of them didn’t speak the same language.

The Allies had limited intelligence of Turkish positions and grossly underestimated the resolve of the defenders to maintain their position. The arrogant belief was that the Turks simply didn’t have the strength or motivation to defend their territory. The Allies lacked fundamental necessities and didn’t even have an accurate map of the beaches of the proposed landings. The campaign was one of the most spectacularly inept in the history of modern warfare.

The landings were a disaster for the Allies. Due to the strong winds many of the troops landed some distance from the intended landing zones. Those that did make it onto the beach from the landing craft found it an almost impossible task to scale the incredibly steep cliffs at the landing sites.

The Gallipoli attach was launched on 25 April, but the battle waged on until January 9 1917. Disease was a huge problem – more troops were victims of disease than were killed in combat. Finally, after many months of futile losses, the Allies were ordered to withdraw.

It is thought that 56,000 Allied troops died in battle in the Gallipoli campaign. Almost 200,000 were injured or shipped out of the battle field as a result of illness and disease. Losses on the Turkish side were also very heavy – 86,000 perished in the battle.

In between World War I and World War II the popular belief was that amphibious landings simply could not be successful. However, it soon became clear that in order for the Allies to make advances in World War II they had to consider an amphibious campaign. This was most successfully carried out in the D-Day landings on June 6 1944. The study of the Battle of Gallipoli was an integral part of the planning of the landings in Normandy. The failure of the Gallipoli amphibious landings taught the World a huge lesson.

Joining Forces to End the Great War, D-Day, 1944

D-Day was one of the most significant days in World History. June 6th 1944 saw one of the most carefully planned and executed acts of Allied cooperation ever experienced. It marked a huge step forward in bringing the conflict of World War II to an end, and it saw significant cooperation and planning between the Allied Forces.

The numbers are huge. More than 5,000 Allied troops landed on the Normandy beaches on 6th June 1944. By the time that the invasion had finished it is estimated that 875,000 troops had landed on the shores of Northern France. It marked a significant turning point in World War II and paved the way to the end of the conflict. The action was not without significant sacrifice. It is confirmed that 4414 men of the combined Allied forces lost their lives on D-Day.

D-Day was a true example of the Allies joining forces in the common aim of ending World War II. The Allied forces consisted of troops from Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia, France, Greece, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Norway, the Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand and Poland.

There were 5 beaches involved in the Normandy landings and they were all given code names. The American beaches were Omaha and Utah, the others were Gold Beach, Sword and Juno.

Plans for the Normandy landings began in 1943. It required large scale planning of meticulous detail. The weather conditions on June 6th were not idea, but it was decided that it had to go ahead on that day. The weather, tide and the full moon had to be aligned for the attack to have the maximum chance of success.

The first stage of the attack was the air bombardment which began just after midnight. By this stage of the War, the German air force was heavily depleted. The British and the Americans deployed 2,200 aircraft whilst the Germans only had 570 aircraft in Normandy, and only an additional 964 in the rest of Germany. Weather conditions were bad, and bombers were afraid of hitting their own troops, so the air deployment was not as successful as it had been hoped.

The next stage was the minesweepers. The Germans had been anticipating an attack and had heavily fortified the coastal areas, particularly around Northern France. The minesweepers mission was successful and they were able to finish at sunrise without encountering German opposition.

The American beaches of Omaha and Utah were the first to be attacked at 6.30 am. Ahead of this the naval bombardment stated at 5.45, when it was still dark.

The amphibious craft were extremely vulnerable to attack, and as soon as the troops stepped on the beach the dangers multiplied.

The Utah Beach landings were the first to be ordered, and they were a great success. 21,000 troops landed with 197 casualties. This was partly as the weather had made them drift off target – that was unexpected, but fortuitous.

At Point du Hoc 135 men of the Allied forces were killed, Gold Beach 1,000, Juno Beach 961, Sword Beach more than 1,000 were lost.

Omaha Beach was a different story. Strong winds forced the craft off target, and many of the troops had to wade through the water to reach the land. There were 2,000 causalities on this very heavily defended beach. Around 600 mean were able to reach the higher ground.

D-Day was a hugely significant turning point in the battle for the Allies to bring about the end of World War II. The meticulous planning and execution of the mission was the beginning of the end of the War in Europe.


The Battle of Waterloo, Defeating the French and Ending Napoleon’s Reign

Napoleon Bonaparte was finally defeated at the Battle of Waterloo on June 18th 1815. Napoleon is a fascinating character in European history. His rise to power and subsequent downfall and exile are one of the most interesting studies in history. The Battle of Waterloo marked the end of his reign of power.

Following the French Revolution of 1892, Napoleon spent the next decade rising to power and consolidating his position. His meteoric rise was impressive. He was born to the Corsican nobility, but this gave him little advantage as money did not come with his status.

Napolean proved to be a talented military strategist and graduated from a French military school in 1785. It was not long before he could put these talents to the test, as he quikcly rose up through the ranks to become a respected military leader.

Until 1912 Napoleon’s military and political success had been huge, and largely unchecked. Napoleon took control of France in 1799 and became Emperor in 1804. His title was self proclaimed, but it was largely accepted by the people of France. His military and political success was outstanding. Napoleon’s rise and fall is a fascinating chapter of European history.

Napoleon made the mistake that many have in history which has caused their downfall. He invaded Russia in 1912. This proved to be a disaster. Napoleon was also suffering significant defeats elsewhere in Europe. The Peninsula War drove him from the Iberian Peninsula. Napoleon also suffered defeat in the Battle of Leipzig.

By 1914 Napoleon had suffered devastating and humiliating defeat. The collation forces had captured Pairs by March 1914. Napoleon was forced into exile on the island of Elba.

Most would agree that there are few places in the world better to spend a period of exile than the beautiful Italian island of Elba. Napoleon did not agree with this sentiment and plotted his escape back to the French mainland. He returned to Paris in March 1815.

His return sent shock waves around the rest of Europe. The British, Prussians, Russians and Austrians formed an alliance to stop Napoleon returning to power.

Napoleon wanted to launch an attack as a preemptive strike upon the Allies, so he invaded Belgium in March 1815. The British and Prussian armies were already stationed there in anticipation of an attack from Napoleon.

Initially Napoleon was successful and defeated the Prussian army. His battle with the British proved to be his final stand. The British army were well prepared and had noble assistance from Holland, German and Belgian forces. The numbers of troops on each side were pretty evenly matched, but the strategic operations of the Allies won the Battle of Waterloo.

Strategic errors allowed the Allied forces to muster support and the arrival of Prussian troops to assist in Napoleons defeat was a major factor.

It appears that Napoleons skills as a major tactician deserted him and he made mistakes in the Battle of Waterloo. He suffered a major defeat and was forced to abdicate once more in June 1815. This time he was exiled to the British held island of Saint Helena in the South Atlantic. We can speculate that he must have missed the idyllic island of Elba in the Mediterranean. He died aged 51 on May 21st 1821.


The End of the Jacobite Rebellion: Culloden, 1746

The Battle of Culloden not only marked the end of the Jacobite Rebellion, it was also the last battle ever to be fought on British soil.

Charles Edward Stuart, or Bonnie Prince Charlie as he was called by his supporters, led the campaign to restore a Stuart King to the British throne. He had marched his army of 6,000 to London to try and gain support for his attempt to overthrow the Hanoverian King, George II. Unfortunately for the Young Pretender (as his enemies called him), his campaign met with little success and he gained no significant support.

Charles decided to retreat back to Inverness in Scotland. Most of his army were Roman Catholic Highlanders. They were poorly equipped for combat. Whilst some did have swords, many only had makeshift weapons.

The Duke of Cumberland was the leader of the King’s army of around 8,000 men. They marched towards Inverness with the intention of finally defeating the Jacobite Rebellion. They arrived and encamped in Nairn on April 14 1746. Bonnie Prince Charlie’s forces were depleted by this time and are estimated to have been around 5,400 in number.

The rebels moved towards Nairn. It was debated as to whether using guerilla tactics would bring them a better chance of victory over Cumberland, but Bonnie Prince Charlie rejected that idea.

Instead it was decided that the Jacobites would launch a night attack. The Duke of Cumberland’s birthday of April 15 was chosen for the night attack. This type of campaign had worked successfully for them before, but this time it was a failure which simply depleted the energy of the already exhausted Highlanders. They were very short on food and many simply did not have the strength to engage in battle.

The Duke of Cumberland gave the order to march to attack the Jacobites on April 16. The already exhausted Jacobites formed a wall of defense with ground troops on the front line, and soldiers on horseback forming the second line. Morale was low and many of the Jacobite troops were exhausted and hungry. To add to their woes, the weather conditions were poor, with wind blowing rain and sleet into their faces.

Cumberland’s forces subjected the enemy line to an artillery attack which lasted some 20 minutes. It is not known why Bonnie Prince Charlie delayed the order to charge. The terrain was boggy and unsuited to this type of combat, but he had little choice. The Highland clan leaders were angry that Charles had delayed giving the order to charge, and persuaded him that he needed to do so. Unfortunately, by this point support for his leadership was waning, and confusion was rife. The charge was uncoordinated, but many of the Highlanders did reach enemy lines.

They were no match for the King’s army. Losses on the Jacobite side were high with around 1,250 men losing their lives, many were wounded and 558 taken prisoner. The Duke of Cumberland’s army lost 52 with 259 injured. The Battle of Culloden lasted only an hour and the army of Bonnie Prince Charlie was defeated, marking the end of the Jacobite rebellion.