1916 – Final evacuation from the ill-advised Gallipoli invasion.

Final evacuation from the ill-advised Gallipoli invasion which saw the death of 3,500-4,000 Irish soldiers fighting either in Australian, New Zealand or British uniform. An estimated 44,000 allied soldiers died. As with most Irish who fought in WWI, their sacrifice received scant recognition by parochial Irish government until 2010.

The Gallipoli campaign was a costly failure for the Allies, with an estimated 27,000 French, and 115,000 British and dominion troops (Great Britain and Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, India, and Newfoundland) killed or wounded. Over half these casualties (73,485) were British and Irish troops. New Zealand suffered around 8000 killed and wounded, about 5.6 percent of Allied casualties on Gallipoli. The Ottoman Empire paid a heavy price for their victory: an estimated 250,000 Turkish and Arab troops were killed or wounded defending Gallipoli.

Of the 1,100 of the 1st Royal Dublin Fusiliers who landed on 25 April where ‘the water of the bay ran red with blood,’ the Military History Society of Ireland, states that only 11 would survive the entire campaign unscathed. The botched campaign forced the resignation of Winston Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty.

The enormous casualties at Gallipoli among Irish soldiers who had volunteered to fight in the British Army was a causal factor in the Irish War of Independence; as balladeers sang, “Twas better to die ‘neath an Irish sky than in Suvla or Sedd el Bahr”.

Liam Clancy’s rendition of Eric Bogle’s masterpiece And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda sums up the horror of the campaign.

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