VICTORY AT GALLIPOLI 1915
Author: Klaus Wolf (Translated by Thomas P Iredale)
Publisher: Pen & Sword, 384 pages, 124 illustrations / maps
Published: April 2020
Ever since Klaus Wolf’s Gallipoli, 1915: Das Deutsch-Türkische Militärbündnis im Ersten Weltkrieg, was published in 2008, I was one amongst many waiting for this book to be translated into English. There are few books on the German contribution to the Turkish victory at Gallipoli that are available, and even fewer in English. Wolf addresses this gap using extensive research and a wealth of sources from German records and published literature. In the English edition, which has added material, he examines the military assistance provided by the German Empire, particularly the contribution made by Colmar von der Goltz (later made a Turkish Marshal) in the years preceding 1914. He follows up with the calculated German pressure to ensure that the Ottomans fought on the side of the Central Powers. He highlights the fundamental reforms that were required after the battering the Turks received in various Balkan wars and the challenges that faced the members of the German mission.
In the following chapters, Wolf examines the fortification of the Dardanelles and the welcoming of the SMS Goeben and SMS Breslau. With the Turkish-German pact now in the open, German Admiral Souchon, had been appointed commander in chief of the Ottoman navy. With Enver Pasha’s permission, Souchon made the next move and launched an unprovoked attack on the Russian seaports in the Black Sea. Russia, and her allies Britain and France, were now at war with Turkey. Wolf examines the failed Allied attempt to break through the Dardanelles, and the crucial work that Germans like Admiral Usedom, performed in strengthening its defences. The impact of Fifth Army Commander, Liman von Sanders, is detailed and the instrumental way he helped deliver the Turkish victory. The German relationship with the Turks was far from perfect and at all levels of command, although it functioned, it is clear that there was friction. Wolf states “Even today, Turkish opinion is still largely characterised by works that lay the blame for the high casualties exclusively on the German leadership.” Whilst there were failings at many levels, the Turks were just as accountable. Wolf goes on to state that operationally von Sanders tactics were “not only appropriate but also extremely clever”, and justified reasoning is given.
How significant was Germany’s contribution for the Gallipoli campaign is a question that the book helps to answer, although in recent times the official Turkish line downplays their contribution, it is clear that without German support the outcome to the campaign would have been different. Germany’s contribution to leadership, tactics, equipment, munitions, medicine and training is significant and should not be underestimated. It is worth noting that by the very act of intervention, Imperial Germany had succeeded in bringing Turkey into the war and, with Turkish forces, had tied down the best part of half a million Allied troops.
Wolf weaves in to the narrative some interesting stories that will be new to many. We read about Orkanie battery commander Lieutenant Hans Woermann, the first German officer to be killed in action in the region during the allied bombardment of Kumkale, to that of naval engineer Lieutenant Arnholdt Reeder who ensured that the minelayer Nusret steamed smoke-free to avoid detection whilst laying the fateful line of mines in March 1915. There was Lieutenant Commander Rudolph Firle who jointly commanded the Turkish destroyer Muavenet, which sank HMS Goliath and that of U21’s submarine commander, Otto von Hersing, who torpedoed HMS Triumph and HMS Majestic. On land, Lieutenant Colonel Hans Kannengiesser, in command of 9th Division was influential in blocking the New Zealand attack on Chunuk Bair in August 1915, whilst Major Wilhelm Willmer, who commanded the Anafarta Group Wilmer, defended Suvla Bay so effectively during the British landings. In the Gallipoli air war, the first Allied aircraft shot down was by Lieutenant Karl Kettembeil, whilst flying in an Albatros C.III, piloted by Lieutenant Ludwig Preussner. All helped Turkey secure victory at Gallipoli. At sea, on land or in the air, the case for Germany contributing to the Turkish victory was important.
The book itself was made possible by The Gallipoli Association, and it is hoped that it is the first of many bringing different perspectives of the campaign to a wider audience. The translation itself, by GA Member Thomas Iredale, has been painstakingly executed and in places enhanced by editorial comments submitted by other Association members. Following the sixteen chapters are appendices that list the names of German officers who served between 1914-1916 with the army, navy and air arm. It also includes a list of those that died during the same period in the Gallipoli, Dardanelles and Black Sea theatres of the war, including those that were killed when SMS Breslau was sunk in 1918. The illustrations and maps are numerous, and the book, as a whole, is high quality in both content and presentation. For those readers that would like a detailed insight into Germany’s role on Gallipoli, this volume is a must. Recommended reading.