The New Zealanders at Gallipoli
General Munro Assumes Control
The new “responsible Commander” proved to be General Sir Charles Munro, K.C.B., a soldier of much experience in former wars, and a fine record of service on the Western Front. Until General Munro's arrival on the Peninsula at the end of October, General Birdwood acted as Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. No movement was attempted during this period. There seemed nothing to do but strengthen the line and prepare for the bad weather everyone anticipated.
General Munro arrived on the Peninsula at the end of October. His duty was:
To report on the military situation on the Gallipoli Peninsula.
To express an opinion whether, on purely military grounds, the Peninsula should be evacuated, or whether another attempt should be made to carry it.
The number of troops that would be required—
It was not long before the General was able to report that “the positions occupied by our troops presented a military situation unique in history. The mere fringe of the coast line had been secured. The beaches and piers . . were exposed to registered and observed military fire; our entrenchments were dominated almost throughout by the Turks. The possible artillery positions were insufficient and defective. The force, in short, held a line possessing every possible military defect. The position was without depth, page 272 the communications were insecure and dependent on the weather.” After reviewing the conditions of the troops—they could not get the necessary rest from shellfire as in France; they were much enervated from the diseases in that part of Europe in the summer; through their tremendous losses there was a great dearth of officers competent to lead—these and other considerations forced the General to the conclusion that the troops available on the spot could not achieve or attempt anything decisive.
A Unique Pier at Imbos.
Ships sunk to make a pier at Kephalos. A close examination of this large vessel will reveal the deception—she is a merchant steamer with enough fake super-structure to make her look like a British dreadnought. Observe her own funnel with the outer imitation funnel removed. A fleet of these dummy warships often masqueraded in the North Sea as the British Fleet.
On considering the possibilities of an early success by the provision of reinforcements, he came to the conclusion that “an advance from the positions we held could not be regarded as a reasonable military operation to expect;” and “even had we been able to make an advance on the Peninsula, our position would not have been ameliorated to any marked degree, and an advance to Constantinople was quite out of the question.” Which brought the General to the point: “Since we could not hope to achieve any purpose by remaining on the Peninsula, the appalling cost to the nation involved in consequence of embarking on an Overseas page 273 Expedition with no base available for the rapid transit of stores, supplies, and personnel, made it [an evacuation] urgent.”
It must be remembered that the soldiers were not informed of these important decisions. It was essential to the plan that absolute secrecy should be observed, and that the enemy should be led to believe that an attack might take place at any time. It was now announced that the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force would consist of two distinct and separate parts—the “Salonika Army” under Lieut.-General Sir B. Mahon; and the “Dardanelles Army” under Lieut.-General Sir W. Birdwood.