Gallipoli Campaign

Almost every Australian has some knowledge of the Gallipoli campaign. It is taught in high school history courses, and stories about ANZAC abound in the popular press every 25 April. Many members of the public, however, would be unaware of the sheer volume of material that has been published about Gallipoli. Some material deals with a specific aspect of the campaign: the first day, for example, a particular battle, or the forces of one country. Other works discuss the campaign as a whole or incorporate the Gallipoli story into broader histories of the First World War.

Much of what has been written about Gallipoli is of interest mainly to specialists, but for those who wish to learn more about the campaign there is a wealth of material available for study. What follows is a survey of some representative works; it is by no means exhaustive but it does give the reader an idea of the extent of the literature on the campaign. In recent decades many Australians have probably gained their strongest impressions of Gallipoli from Peter Weir’s famous film of the same name.

Weir’s audience could be forgiven for believing that most of the fighting on Gallipoli was done by Australians under British leadership. Even the New Zealanders fail to rate a mention in the film. The truth, however, is very different and there are several general histories of the campaign that more accurately reflect the relative roles of the various combatant nations. General histories Two of the best known general histories of the campaign are Alan Moorehead’s 1956 book Gallipoli and Robert Rhodes James’s 1965 book of the same name.

In the introduction to his 1999 edition, Rhodes James wrote that although he was at first very impressed with Moorehead’s study, a second reading led him to a different conclusion. Moorehead’s Gallipoli, he wrote, was the work of “‘a brilliant journalist, not an historian”. It is true that Moorehead wrote with the flair of an experienced journalist and, for the general reader who wants to gain a feel for the campaign and those who conducted it, his book provides an interesting and readable overview.

It concentrates mainly on the tactical and command aspects of the campaign and Australian readers might be disappointed at the relative lack of information about the role of their soldiers. The tragic charge at the Nek, for example, occupies only a few sentences; more weight is given to Keith Murdoch, whose visit to the peninsula lasted only a few days, than to Charles Bean, who chronicled the entire campaign and is not mentioned at all. Having been published

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