Friday, August 14, 2020

Wrong Gallipoli Landing Site?

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The traditional view that the ANZACs landed at the wrong beach is debatable due to the evidence presented in primary sources such as Denis Winter¡¯s book ¡®5 April 115 The Inevitable Tragedy¡¯.

The reasoning that the silhouette of Ari Burnu had been mistaken for the intended aiming point, Gaba Tepe can be debated. And one of the most common views is that it was very dark and that they went off course by accident. Another traditional view was that a ¡®mystery current¡¯ had carried the tows off course.

Firstly, the mistaken silhouettes. The high mountain of Sari Bair rises directly behind Anzac Cove, while Khilid Bahr Plateau is quite a distance behind Gaba Trepe and is lower with a flatter top, if viewed from the sea.

Navigation officers would have made particular note on what the two landforms looked like. Also contributing to the debate is that Sari Bair had a pointed top and was much taller than the Khilid Bahr Plateau, whilst the Khilid Bahr Plateau has a flat top and is much lower than Sari Bair when seen from the sea.

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Secondly, Bean told a correspondent, ¡°the outline of the shore could be seen fifteen minutes before the tows set off.¡± So according to this quote, if the tows had lost their way in the brief darkness period, there would have been enough time to make adjustments. The navigators accompanying the tows were certainly qualified to make adjustments. Before the tows were sent off, navigators had studied the shore¡¯s profile and would have made an effort to establish their bearings before dark. In Thursby¡¯s report, according to Denis Winter¡¯s book, ¡°the loom of the land could be clearly seen at 10am¡±. And even after an hour, Colonel Johnstone could ¡®just see a faint outline of the coast¡¯. Also in Godfrey¡¯s memoirs he was ¡°conscious of the loom of the land at about am¡±, which was a little more than an hour before the landing. Hedley Howe who was an Australian who landed with the first wave wrote, ¡®throughout the approach to Anzac until the moon set at am, navigating officers in ships were able to fix their positions at all times by accurate bearings of the land¡­[there] cannot be the slightest doubt that the commander of every vessel would be continuously occupied in maintenance of his correct station.¡± According to these statements and memoirs, it seems that there was enough light and time for adjustments to be made.

Thirdly, the mystery current. In the naval log books, it was recorded that there was a breeze blowing at just one knot. At one knot, the breeze would not be sufficient power to make a big difference to the ship¡¯s positioning. As a result, Hamilton put in his memoirs, ¡°Birdwood had no current to trouble him.¡± The Mediterranean fleet had often visited Lemnos before the war so they would have known about the behavioral patterns of the sea. If there were a current, naval officers would have made allowances for it. Howe wrote, ¡°The land again becoming visible about 4am, ship¡¯s navigators would make accurate allowance for any currents which might have affected the ship¡¯s position.

After all these facts have been put into account, it is easily assumable that the landing at Anzac cove was not a mistake but a deliberate act made by General Birdwood.

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