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A bloody exercise in futility

Gallipoli - Peter Hart

Though the focus of Peter Hart’s book on the Allied effort to take the Dardanelles in 1915 will undoubtedly anger more than a few readers Down Under, it is difficult to argue with the numbers. Of the approximately 489,000 soldiers the British Empire deployed to the Dardanelles, the vast majority of them came from Britain itself, where they faced the same dry, dust-choked conditions that their comrades from Australia and New Zealand did. In his book on the Gallipoli campaign, Hart uses the memoirs and oral histories of the men who served in the campaign to recount its course it in all of its steps, from its inception in London in the early part of the war to the initial naval effort to force the Straits followed by the subsequent campaign to seize the surrounding heights using troops. Hart’s narrative is always engaging, as he relates the cruel disillusionment of men who often experienced combat for the first time on the thin beaches and rocky outcrops that comprised the geography of the peninsula. Though his focus in on the British and Imperial troops, Hart also includes the often overlooked French contribution as well, and provides a welcome (if more limited) account of events from the perspective of Ottoman forces as well. Its’ reliance on soldiers narratives makes for a powerful account of the campaign, one that makes it difficult to disagree with Hart’s passionate condemnation of it as little more than a bloody exercise in futility.