Hamish Hamilton, London, 1956.
First edition. Hardcover, octavo; brown boards with gilt spine titling, map endpapers; 384pp., monochrome plates and fold-out maps. Minor wear; offsetting to endpapers, inscription to owner and lightly toned text block edges. Illustrated dustwrapper browned along spine and edges with a few small tears and chips. Very good and protected in archival-quality film with white paper backing. "Alan Moorehead's classic account of the campaign, is appropriately replete with classical allusions and takes its epigraph from Herodotus: ' And now, as he looked and saw the whole of the Hellespont covered with vessels of his fleet and all the shore and every plain about Abydos as full as possible with men, Xerxes congratulated himself on his good fortune; but after a while he wept.' As with Xerxes, so with Hamilton, whose large amphibious force failed in all its objectives with appalling loss of life. The initial naval attempt to force a way through the Dardanelles had been thwarted by newly laid and unsuspected mines, and the landings and subsequent battles on the peninsula itself were ill-prepared and mismanaged, leading to huge casualties and, eventually, an ignominious withdrawal. While acknowledging that it might be costly, Churchill had imagined that his bold plan would be a glorious success and Turkey would be knocked out of the war; instead Gallipoli went down in history as the graveyard of some 130,000 men and a good few political and military reputations. George Orwell famously observed in 1941 that the British 'do not retain among their historical memories the name of a single military victory - the four names which have really engraved themselves on the popular memory are Mons, Ypres, Gallipoli and Passchendaele, every time a disaster'. Equally, in Australia and New Zealand, Anzac Day has much greater significance than Armistice Day: observed every 25 April, it commemorates the day - or, rather, night - in 1915 that the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps made their courageous but chaotic landing at Gaba Tepe. A few hours later, at Cape Helles on the southern tip of the peninsula, a heavy naval bombardment was supposed to have destroyed any resistance. It had not, and in the light of morning many of the British troops packed into boats were shot dead before they even reached the shore. 'One by one the oars fell from the dead hands of their occupants and drifted slowly away,' wrote Fyffe. As one of the boats passed him, he 'could look straight down into her motionless cargo. It was a floating shambles. A mass of corpses huddled together in the bottom of the boat and lying heaped above one another across the crimson benches'. An airman looking out of his plane 'saw that the calm blue sea was absolutely red with blood for a distance of 50 yards from the shore'. Moorehead's beautifully written, even-handed and panoptic account of the campaign remains a model of military history. His quick character studies of the politicians and generals bring them startlingly to life, his descriptions of the frequently confused landings and battles achieve remarkable lucidity, and his accounts of the unparalleled May truce (called so that the putrefying dead could be buried) and the near-miraculous evacuation are little masterpieces of storytelling. He analyses the decisions made at GHQ and their consequences, but recognises that if one also looks at the campaign in its quieter moments, the feelings of the soldiers, what they ate and wore and thought and talked about, the small circumstances of their daily lives, the scene becomes alive again and in a peculiarly vivid way. " - Peter Parker
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