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Tell us if something is incorrect. Book Format: Choose an option. Add to Cart. By abandoning Gallipoli 'we should lose credit in our own eyes, in those of our enemies, and in those of our friends. Quite apart from our prestige in the East To Russia the blow would be staggering. Harsh military realities, however, overrode wider political concerns and, after Kitchener had inspected the theatre for himself, he decided that the two northern sectors at Suvla Bay and Anzac should be evacuated forthwith.

But 'if undertaken it would be an operation of extreme military difficulty and danger'. A few days later Lord Curzon, a former Viceroy of India and now a Cabinet minister who certainly opposed evacuation on political grounds, painted a nightmare scenario of evacuation in a '"welter of carnage and shame", with panicking, frenzied men scrambling in the water, "being drowned by the hundred"'.

1916: A Global History review: midpoint for a world engulfed in war

But opinion in London moved inexorably in favour of evacuation. Churchill, who had been under pressure for some time due to the failure of the campaign to deliver any breakthrough, resigned from the government on 15 November, removing the strongest opponent of the policy from the Cabinet. Exceptionally severe winter weather hit the peninsula during the last week in November, causing serious casualties including 16, cases of frostbite and exposure and reinforcing concerns about the costs of staying on over the winter months.

Finally, on 7 December the Cabinet agreed to evacuate Suvla and Anzac, though they decided to hang on at Cape Helles for the meantime. As Kitchener had noted, the staff at Gallipoli had already begun planning for an evacuation.

Indeed, once the principle of withdrawal had apparently been conceded, Orlo Williams recalled that 'preparations were pushed on with the utmost haste, for the prospect of winter storms hung over us like an evil spectre'. The preliminary evacuation plans envisaged three stages. The first, which could be implemented before a final decision was made, involved reducing the number of troops to that required 'for a purely defensive winter campaign'.

The second stage would be implemented once the decision to withdraw had been made. At this point 'force and material would be reduced until there remained only a bare sufficiency to enable the positions to be held for a week against attack'. In the final stage 'this diminished garrison was to be withdrawn with the greatest possible speed, no special effort being made to save any more material'.

But it was a tall order to see the safe withdrawal of just over 80, men, along with huge quantities of guns, stores and equipment. The 'main thing', as put in the instructions prepared by staff officers at Suvla, was 'to deceive enemy for ten days'. In order to cover the initial troop movements Brigadier General Brudenell White, chief of staff of the Anzac Corps, also devised a system of 'quiet periods' during which in the final days there were regular suspensions of firing especially at night from the Allied side, though if there were Turkish attacks these were to be strongly resisted.

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Thus the Turks, thinking that the Allies were merely settling into a defensive winter posture, would become accustomed to periods of inactivity along the front. While most of the support formations and a fair number of the front-line troops were evacuated, various cunning schemes were devised to deceive the Turks into thinking that nothing unusual was under way.

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Supplies apparently continued to be moved in: 'Carts went up at night empty but returned full of trench stores, troops in the front line being fed from reserves already prepared. The casualty clearing stations, which were in full view of the enemy, were 'evacuated and almost empty for several days'. Special parties of men were instructed to keep fires lit in the tents, while ambulances continued to operate 'as if to remove sick and wounded to casualty clearing stations at the usual hours.

They were always nearly empty.


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At Anzac, Brudenell White's careful planning paid off. Detailed timetables were prepared for the movement of over 10, men on the last night. In order to muffle the sound of the operation, the men were ordered to wear socks or sandbags over their boots, while torn-up blankets were placed on the floor of trenches. The 'drip rifle', a device which became embedded in Anzac folklore, was developed to deceive the enemy after the last troops had left the front line.

The invention, ascribed to a Lance Corporal William Scurry from the Melbourne suburb of Essendon, involved dripping water into an empty bully beef or kerosene can attached to the trigger of a rifle left loaded and aimed towards the Turkish trenches.