President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has commemorated a significant day in Turkish history when its predecessor state the Ottoman Empire won a remarkable victory against the Allies on March 18, 1915, at the beginning of the Gallipoli Campaign which was aimed at taking the Empire out of World War I by occupying its capital Istanbul.
"Those who do not know [the meaning of] the victory of the Dardanelles and do not understand where and under which conditions and sacrifices it had been achieved could not comprehend the meaning of what we have currently been going through [in our country]," Erdogan declared on Friday morning during the commemorations of the 101th anniversary of the naval victory in the Dardanelles in Turkey’s western Canakkale Province.
"We, as a nation, never fear or shy from battle no matter who or how powerful they [our enemies] are. ... No one can prevent us from writing a new epic as long as we protect our solidarity and brotherhood," Erdogan said, referring to Turkey's current fight against terrorism.
The Allied naval force, consisting of 18 warships reinforced by cruisers and destroyers, moved towards the narrowest point of the Dardanelles Strait in March 1915, following intelligence reports that the Ottoman forts at the Dardanelles were using up their supply of ammunition.
However, the Ottoman minelayer Nusret had previously layed several lines of mines throughout the Straits which critically damaged a number of the Allied battleships. Three allied warships were sunk, killing several hundred of their crews.
The Ottoman artillery kept up constant fire on the Allied ships approaching the Straits which damaged the warships Gaulois, Suffren, Agamemnon and Inflexible, as gunfire from the Allied fleet could not silence the Ottoman batteries along the Dardannells.
British Admiral John de Robeck, who was the commander of the Dardanelles Campaign, lamented on March 18 that "After losing so many ships I shall obviously find myself superseded tomorrow morning."
Eventually, de Robeck was forced to recall the naval expeditionary force in order to save its remaining ships due to unacceptable losses and inclement weather conditions. He had reportedly overseen the gravest naval losses by the Royal Navy since the battle of Trafalgar.
The disastrous Allied attack led British First Lord of Admiralty Winston Churchill - who was the mastermind of the expedition and considered the naval losses as a necessary price - and his supporters to call for a land operation with ground forces in order to clear the Ottoman defences along the Dardanelles.
The Allied naval defeat gave the Ottoman forces a great boost to their morale in the defence of the capital, encouraging them to fight to the end against the Allies.
On April 25, 1915, the Allies launched the largest amphibious attack in the history of warfare thus far on the Gallipoli Peninsula in western Turkey. This also failed catastrophically for the Allies at the price of 86,000 Ottoman soldiers and some 45,000 Allied troops including 10,000 soldiers from Australia and New Zealand.
The Ottoman victory over the Allied forces at Gallipoli became critical in shaping the modern Turkish national identity and the emergence of Republic of Turkey, and was also important in the creation of the national identities of Australia and New Zealand.