From the Archives, 1915: The Anzacs withdraw from Gallipoli

First published in The Age on December 22, 1915




“Another Sphere of Operations”


The War Office on Monday afternoon announced that all the troops in the Suvla Bay and Anzac districts, together with guns and stores, have been transferred, with insignificant casualties, to another sphere of operations.

Men of the 18th Battalion rest outside their dugouts. They appear to have all their personal kit and equipment stacked up in front of them suggesting they were about to take part in the evacuation.Credit:Australian War Memorial

The announcement adds:—"The Turks were not aware of the evacuation, though the great army which was withdrawn was in the closest contact with the enemy trenches. The shortening of the line will enable operations at other points on Gallipoli to be carried out more effectively.”

A French official report states:—.-”The British, in conformity with the Allied plan, withdrew from Suvla Bay, whose strategic value has been diminished by the new developments in the East. The embarkation was carried out under the best conditions, and was not molested by the Turks."



Glowing Tributes to Australians

The news of the abandonment of Anzac and Suvla is the sensation of the day. The newspapers on Monday were hurriedly bought up as newsboys with placards dashed into the streets. Later editions of the evening papers were in equal demand ns the hope that they would contain details beyond the bald announcement by the War Office.

There is much speculation as to whether the withdrawal is a prelude to the complete, evacuation of Gallipoli, and also whether the Anzac troops are to be given a temporary rest in protecting the Suez Canal, or will be transferred to Salonika forthwith.

Australian troops play cricket so as to alleviate suspicion from the Turks that forces were being evacuated.Credit:Australian War Memorial

The newspapers are unanimous in emphasising the great services rendered by the Australians and New Zealanders. They are printing vivid stories of their doings, and are reproducing diaries giving the dates of the principal events on Gallipoli, together with interesting photographs. Generals and other military experts’ state that withdrawal from Suvla Bay was the only course after the surprise initial attack failed. Some of the newspapers express the opinion that General Sir Ian Hamilton reported to this effect, and that Lord Kitchener came to the same conclusion.

The “Times" says:—“The ease with which the withdrawal was effected will bring intense relief. It was a wonderful organising feat, which will be found as extraordinary as the heroic landing of the immortal 29th Division, and the glorious Australian and New Zealand corps, who share the chief honors of some of the noblest and most tragic pages in the history of the British Empire. The Australian and New Zealand courageous dead lie on the abandoned cliffs, but their memory will never fade."

Other newspapers emphasise the relief occasioned by the official news, and praise the brilliant achievement in withdrawing with trifling casualties.

The 'Evening News" says:— “The evacuation of Anzac is one of the sensations of the war. While it does not indicate a complete withdrawal, it proves that an offensive costing 200,000 casualties has ended. It is a relief to know that the calculations of experts regarding losses during the retirement have not been fulfilled. The Anzacs have won immortal fame in fighting like demons against the best defensive troops in the world. When their ammunition was exhausted they followed up the enemy with stones and fists. During the Suvla landing the Anzacs, by another glorious attack, gained the crest of Sari Bahr. It was not their fault that the rest of the attack was a painful setback. What has happened since Suvla is unknown to tine public."

The "Star" observes:—"So ends an enterprise upon which the highest hopes were built. Our troops were always within a few miles of victory. The final cause of failure was the inability of the troops at Suvla to fulfil their contract with the Australian and New Zealanders advancing at Anzac. The Australians alone have loot 25,000 men on Gallipoli. The movement, however, has immobilised 250,000 Turks."

The "Evening Standard" congratulates Lieutenant-General Sir Charles Monro on the success of the withdrawal, which, it remarks, "threatened to be a rearguard action with tragic possibilities. The operations required military skill of a high order."

The "Pall Mall Gazette" says: —"The fact that insignificant casualties were sustained is particularly welcome news, since the operations of re-embarking troops under the fire of a powerful and well posted enemy was one of much difficulty, and it was widely believed that it must be attended by the heaviest losses. The abandonment of hard won positions cannot fail to arouse painful emotions. Anzac Cove and Suvla Bay were the scenes of the most brilliant gallantry on the part of the British, Australian, New Zealand and Indian forces and will be linked in memories which will always be sacred in the annals of British warfare."

Will Sedd el Bahr Be Held?

The naval expert of the same journal states:—"The withdrawal will relieve the fleet and mercantile service of a heavy strain. There have been too many small expeditions. The position at Sedd el Bahr is protected by a double line of ships. It may be assumed that this position will be held, otherwise its evacuation would have preceded that of Anzac."

The "Globe" says:—"For sentimental considerations the withdrawal from Anzac will be received with regret, but sentiment does not count in war. The changed situation since the participation of the Bulgars has resulted in a new situation, which necessitates withdrawal from Turkish soil hallowed by the blood of so many of our Empire's sons."

The "Daily Chronicle" makes the comment:—"The withdrawal must be a sore wrench to the Australians and New Zealanders, whose heroism has made Anzac immortal, yet few of them but feels that it is truer loyalty to withdraw and fight elsewhere than to display obstinate valor in a hopeless position. The wisdom of the original landing at Anzac is doubtful, as it drew off men who were badly needed at the other end of the peninsula, and was a most difficult and costly position to hold; but it was not the fault of the Anzac men that the movement failed. The fatal slowness of the Suvla Bay commander ruined the whole plan."




Concerning the evacuation, the Prime Minister, Mr. Hughes, yesterday spoke as follows: —

"I feel that I speak for the people of Australia when I say that the news that the evacuation of Anzac and Suvla Bay has been carried out with insignificant loss of life has been received in a spirit of devout gladness chastened with a keen regret that the withdrawal had been found imperative.

"I shall not comment upon, much less criticise, the actions of those responsible for the evacuation. I am satisfied that those charged with the great responsibility for the conduct of the campaign have acted for the best. This is no time for carping criticism. War is stern and bloody business, calling for action, not words. War is inconsistent with the ideals of democracy, but this war has been thrust upon us, and we must face its dreadful realities, or see democracy and all it stands for perish.

"Australia is in this war to the end, and that end must and shall be victory, final, complete, overwhelming, for the Allies.

"The evacuation of Anzac and Suvla Bay serves but as a spur to our resolute purpose. These names run like fire through the veins of every Australian, kindling the spirit of his patriotism. Our soldiers have left Anzac, but their glory will for ever remain on the soil soaked with their heroic blood.

"Australia turns a serenely resolute face towards the enemy, assured that her brave soldiers will on other fields uphold the reputation won on Gallipoli that has made us all proud to be akin to them. I desire to express my great joy at the safe withdrawal of our troops and to congratulate those to whose skill and care it was due."

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