In February 1914, a massive British and French fleet appears off the coast of Istanbul (Constantinople). Sitting between Europe and Asia at the entrance to the narrow Strait of Bosporus, it’s one of the most strategically important locations in the world. Whoever controls the strait controls access to the Black Sea – and all of Russia’s warm-water ports.
And in 1914, Istanbul is controlled by the once great Ottoman Empire, now known as the “sick man of Europe”. The Ottomans, who allied with the Austria-Hungarian Empire and the newly unified Germans, were the weakest link in the Central Powers.
In England a rising Parliamentary star threw his (considerable) weight behind a plan to put a swift end to the catastrophe that was quickly becoming the well-known Western Front.
The British Bulldog, Winston Churchill himself, was in many ways the author and biggest supporter of the Gallipoli campaign.
So the Allied navy embarked, according to Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, “The largest armada ever sent to war.” The plan was to bombard the forts along the straits and force an opening for Russian shipping, as well as create a diversion away from the Western Front.
However no plan survives first contact with the enemy. Due to setbacks along the way, the Allies lost the element of surprise and the plan failed dramatically. Mines in the straits sunk several of the Royal Navy’s biggest ships.
But the British are nothing if not stubborn and determined. Unable to force the straits by sea, they followed up the bombardment with an invasion.
On April 25, 1915, the allies begin landing troops on the beaches of Gallipoli. But, like so many other fronts in the Great War, the entrenched defensive positions were impossible to overrun. The Allies never made it past the beach. After nine months of trench warfare, pinned down by machine gun fire and heavy artillery, the Allies evacuated the peninsula.
In total, Allies suffered a staggering 250,000 casualties. The Gallipoli campaign was truly devastating.
And all of this is just setting the scene for the point of this blog post:
Imagine yourself Winston Churchill in the months leading up to June, 1944. You’re preparing for D-Day with Gallipoli in your rear view mirror. Your top military advisors remember it well – many of them were there. You’re about to embark half a million men and the last time you tried this, half of them were casualties.
The question for today is this: How do you look your past failures in the face and try again? How do you study your mistakes enough to learn from them but not let them deter you from giving it another shot?
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