Prior to WW1, Turkey decided it needed a large warship to improve its defence capabilities; it had several small ships but nothing of any great size. The government at that time could not afford such a ship so the people of Turkey raised the required amount from amongst themselves. An order was placed with an English shipyard to construct the required vessel. At this stage Turkey was a supporter of England.
At the commencement of WW1, England did not have sufficient warships it considered necessary to defend itself and defeat the enemy. The then First Lord of the Admiralty was Winston Churchill, he, in his wisdom looked at the Turkish ship, which was almost complete, decided that England needed it so he promptly confiscated it without paying a cent for it or considering the Turkish people who had paid for it.
This outraged the people of Turkey, who had given up hard earned money to buy the ship, to show their displeasure they aligned themselves with Germany, therefore becoming an enemy of England.
In 1915, Churchill conceived the idea of capturing the Dardanelles which would allow a sea route to its allies, Russia. To do this, troops were to land at Gallipoli, make their way overland and capture Istanbul and the Bosporus straights.
Gallipoli was the wrong place to attempt a landing, just a very narrow beach with overlooking heights, which made it easy to defend and very difficult to attack. The troops selected, by Churchill, to carry out this mission were mainly from Australia and New Zealand as they were considered to be less important than an English soldier. These troops were commanded by English officers who certainly considered them to be inferior to English soldiers and treated them with much disdain. There were English troops there as well, but they were more in a support role. The ANZACS did the bulk of the fighting.
We know the result of this ill fated plan, over 56,700 allies were killed and a further 123,598 wounded, as well as 87,000 Turks killed. After 8 months of bitter fighting the plan was abandoned and the troops withdrawn, nothing had been achieved except death and misery.
If Winston Churchill had not confiscated the Turkish warship and paid for it instead, Turkey would not have joined Germany and Gallipoli would not have happened, thus saving the lives of so many brave souls.
The only good thing, if you can call it that, to come from this complete fiasco was the making of the ANZAC legend, which we are all very proud of.
Does this mean that Churchill was not the great man we have been led to believe he was for all these years? Or was he just a politician using his powers to achieve his own glory?
You can make up your own mind about that. Thanks Pete Maitland