Attacks at Gallipoli: Landings at Suvla
With just under a week to go before the men go into battle, let’s finally examine in detail the landings at Suvla. This will take a while, because we’re going to need to deal with Sir Ian Hamilton’s original concept and compare it to the bastardised version that General Stopford has been persuaded by his chief of staff to adopt. The basic variance is simple. Hamilton’s plan has been written for mobile warfare. General Reed’s plan is one for trench warfare.
Their Day 1 objectives, as set down by Sir Ian Hamilton, are the ring of hills around Suvla Bay, in front of the Anafarta Plain (tee hee, farts are funny). In particular, Hamilton is expecting IX Corps to occupy Kirtech Tepe, Tekke Tepe, the W Hills, Green Hill, and Chocolate Hill (the last two named after their colours). Even with an energetic commander this might have proved difficult, as IX Corps’s maps have several important errors on them, and the blokes will have the devil’s own job trying to work out where they’re supposed to be going.
The Ottoman defensive positions leave a lot to be desired. There are three battalions here against an entire British corps. Its commander is under no illusions. His function is solely to act as a tripwire in case the enemy tries to come ashore at Suvla Bay and hold them up until reinforcements can arrive from Bulair. He has almost no artillery or machine guns, and no entrenching tools. He’s set up rudimentary strong-points, one for each battalion, with smaller pickets between them. His main defences are at Kirtech Tepe and Chocolate Hill; with strong pickets directly overlooking the bay at Lala Baba and Hill 10.
If they were properly entrenched, then perhaps some of General Reed’s caution might be excused, but they’re not. The orders issued by Stopford are ridiculously timid. By the time final written orders have been drawn up in a couple of days’ time, they will refer only to attacking Chocolate Hill and, if possible, the W Hills (and not occupying them, a critical distinction). No date or time is given for this. Stopford and Reed’s attention is almost entirely on getting men ashore and establishing a bridgehead. They’re planning to deal with bloodbaths like that seen at W Beach on the 25th of April, and it’s not entirely their fault. Let’s remember that on Sir Ian Hamilton’s orders, reconaissance of Suvla Bay has been severely curtailed to preserve the element of surprise. They’ve also made one other important change. Sir Ian Hamilton had been strongly advised by Admiral de Roebeck that sea conditions inside Suvla Bay itself were extremely difficult, and on no account should he attempt to land men there. Stopford and Reed have missed this important point.
Once again I observe that Stopford has been led astray by his desire to do the right thing. He knows what a disaster the landings at Cape Helles were, and what a struggle it had been for the men simply to get ashore. He’s been prevented from obtaining any intelligence that might have led him to expect a different result. He’s been determined to learn from previous mistakes, and it’s led him down a blind alley.
At this stage I now have to ask, where the hell is Hamilton? He’s exercising absolutely no oversight here. He’s entirely failed to detect that Stopford and Reed are watering his orders down. His diary reveals the answer. Most of his attention has been taken up with exchanging telegrams with the War Office on the subject of ammunition, reinforcements, and other supplies. The details are in the diary; for our purposes, suffice it to say that London is entirely convinced that he has adequate supplies to win a victory, and Hamilton is equally convinced that he doesn’t have nearly enough of anything. If the men had been better supplied, surely Hamilton would have had more attention to spare for his imminent grand attack…
Herbert Sulzbach has arrived at his new positions near Evricourt. He’s close to Noyon, right at the tip of the great salient created by the German trench line as it juts into France running east/west and then turns north/south towards Belgium and the North Sea.
A whole year of war! Who’d have thought that, a year ago? We spend the day at our billets, which remind me of Les Petites Armoises. Towards evening Lt Reinhardt, a bombardier, another lance-bombardier and I ride past Noyon to our new gun-position. I’ve never seen such a peaceful gun-position before.
Though General Joffre’s position in charge of the French Army is, for the moment, secure, there’s still several minor uprisings from the bottom, and none of these are traceable to a shipment of garlic eclairs. General Emile Fayolle, currently commanding a corps in Artois, is responsible for one such uprising. He’s complaining about GQG practising chateau generalship, and senior commanders all too rarely being seen in the trenches. General Petain is extremely doubtful whether any advance will be possible without a considerable advance in technology and tactics. General de Langle is unhappy with the amount of central control being exercised by Joffre and GQG. The French command structure is hardly one happy family as it moves towards its autumn offensive.
Actions in Progress
The Daily Telegraph is republishing its archives from the war day-by-day. Worth a look. I’m reading the paper every day, and it’s where the content for Our Advertising Feature comes from.
(If you find the olde-tyme style difficult to get along with, have a look at this reading guide.)