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The New Zealanders at Gallipoli

The Seething Pot of Balkan Politics

The Seething Pot of Balkan Politics.

During the months of midsummer the political situation in Europe gave the staffs and soldiers of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force something to think about. We studied the Balkan situation and knew of the different candidates and parties struggling for dominance in Greece. The boy page 267 from Awarua waited anxiously for the latest election return from the islands of the Cyclades!

And now the Russian armies on which we had so much depended were being hurled from line to line by the Austro-Germans. Warsaw and Brest-Litovsk fell in August; Grodno and Vilna in September. It was reluctantly admitted that no help could be expected from Russia.

Meanwhile the Green Premier, Venizelos, who had been returned to office with an overwhelming majority in June, experienced opposition from King Constantine. It was understood that the Greeks would always help the Serbians if attacked by an outside power, but to the disgust of all true lovers of freedom, the Greeks refused to move. Serbia's cup of bitterness was filled to overflowing on September 19, when a powerful Austro-German force struck again at that gallant army which but a few months before so decisively punished the Austrians. The next day Bulgaria made public a treaty (secretly signed two months before) throwing in her lot with Germany, Austria and Turkey!

King Constantine, convinced that Germany must win the war on land, prevented the Greeks coming to the assistance of their traditional friends. So it was that Serbia found herself assailed on one side by the Austro-Germans, and threatened by the Bulgarians on the other.

The French and British wished to help their ally, Serbia, but once again the old complaint was evident—a shortage of trained available men. See how this re-acted on the Gallipoli compaign: Sir Ian Hamilton was asked if he could now spare three Divisions! With the consent of the French, the 53rd (Welsh) Division, the 10th (Irish) Division from Suvla, and the 2nd (French) Division from Helles were sent to Salonika. Thus was the Gallipoli army despoiled to provide troops for the new venture at Salonika, whence with other allied troops, it was thought an effort could be made to save Serbia. But once again the allied help arrived in time only to fight a rearguard action, and Serbia shared the fate of Belgium.

Salonika absorbed more and more British troops—troops which might have made all the difference if they had been page 268 ready and released a little earlier for the attacks on Sari Bair. On the Western Front a great effort was being made to concentrate men, ammunition, and guns, for the coming great offensive, which culminated in Neuve Chapelle, Loos, and the French attacks in Champagne.

The British authorities—almost beside themselves with the demands from the Western Front; troubled by the hesitancy of the Greeks; dumbfounded by the deceitfulness of the Bulgarians; appalled by the evident collapse of the
Black and white photograph.

[Photo by Col. Falla, C.M.G., D.S.O.
Water carriers of the 4th Howitzer Battery.
These small donkeys were purchasable in the Ægean Islands at about two pounds each.

Russians; and now faced with the necessity of providing a force at Salonika, had, in taking three divisions from the Peninsula, again demonstrated that the Gallipoli campaign did not have the whole-hearted support of those responsible for its vigorous prosecution. They had not realized that, perhaps more in war than in other matters, things done by halves are never done right.

So it was that while the troops were resting at Sarpi, the fate of the Gallipoli adventure was being decided elsewhere. All the gallantry, heroism, and sacrifice of the British, Indian, French and Colonial troops were to be sacrificed because the Allies, caught unprepared by the Central Powers, had no well-defined plan of action. Nations unprepared must always pay the price in flesh and blood.