Britain Annexes Orange Free State, 1900

2023-05-26T20:00:19-05:00May 26, 2023|HH 2023|

“Can wicked rulers be allied with you, those who frame injustice by statute? They band together against the life of the righteous and condemn the innocent to death.” —Psalm 94:20-21

Britain Annexes Orange Free State, May 28, 1900

During the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901), England’s control of the world’s land surface equaled between 20-25%, and, by 1919, British soldiers had accumulatively through history, invaded about 90% of the nations of the world. During the reign of Victoria Rex, many “small wars” were fought to increase or create political or commercial hegemony, and to quell the revolts of those who took issue with British control. Some of those wars took but a few days or weeks of combat. The most costly by far lasted about three years and was conducted against fellow Reformed European Christians in South Africa. The Afrikaans-speaking Dutch farmers never fielded more than 33,000 men total against the British Empire, which spent the modern equivalent of 25 billion pounds, suffered 120,000 casualties, including 22,000 dead, and touched off riots and protests in London, regarding their “Boer War.” The “concentration camp” for civilians was born in the war, and the tough Afrikaners put up such a resistance to British seizure of the Orange Free State and Transvaal, that a veritable cottage industry of books after the war had titles like Someone Has Blundered, Calamities of the British Army in the Victorian Age and Into the Jaws of Death, British Military Blunders, 1879-1900.

A Boer family in 1886

The Dutch have been a maritime nation for centuries. The Dutch United East India Company discovered in the middle of the 17th century that the southern tip of Africa offered a strategic resting and resupply location, not to mention retirement center, for their trading ships that plied the waters of Indonesia and Indo-China. As the Cape of Good Hope became more useful, Dutch settlers came to set up farms and businesses in South Africa and the Colony became more than just a commercial layover for Asian shipping. In 1685 France revoked the Edict of Nantes and thousands of Huguenots sailed to South Africa, thus mixing French-speaking Reformed Protestants with fellow Calvinists, the local “Free Dutch Burghers.” Those farmers and herdsmen became known as Boers (farmers) and developed their own language, Afrikaans. For various reasons they began trekking north into the more fertile lands of the continent, areas with little population but scattered native African tribes, and separated from the government of the Cape Colony. In 1795 England invaded the Cape and eventually took over politically.

Huguenots building their homesteads in South Africa

A Boer family traveling by covered wagon circa 1900

The Great Trek (1835-1840) brought about 14,000 Boers deeper into South Africa where they formed their own governments of the Transvaal and Orange Free State. The discovery of diamond fields in The Orange Free State in 1870 spurred Britain to seize the area. The discovery of gold in the Transvaal in 1886 brought British and other prospectors (Uitlanders) in a rush from around the world, and with the boom in population, the creation of the City of Johannesburg, within ten years the largest city in South Africa. The proudly independent Boer farmers did not appreciate the inundation of their country with foreigners, especially England’s gold-mining interests, and taxed them and denied voting rights to the non-citizens. In the last day of 1895 and the first two days of 1896, British colonial administrator Leander Jameson, under the command and authority of Cecil Rhodes, raided the Boer Republics with 600 men, machine guns, and artillery, hoping the Uitlanders would rise up and join the revolution. They were tracked down and defeated by Piet Cronjé. The survivors were jailed. Jameson was treated as a hero by the British public, the Kaiser in Germany congratulated President Kruger of the Transvaal for his victory, and Transvaal signed a defense treaty with the Orange Free State. Cecil Rhodes was fired as Governor of Cape Colony

Stephanus Johannes Paulus Kruger (1825-1904) was one of the dominant political and military figures in 19th-century South Africa, as well as President of Transvaal from 1883 to 1900

The Boer Commando assembled from Pretoria in 1899

After a century of conflict between the Boers and the British Imperialists, war broke out in November of 1899 over who would control the diamond and gold mines in the Transvaal and Orange Free States. The Boers were outnumbered in their own countries by English uitlanders, who did not have voting rights, but worked in the gold-mining industry. When the demands of President Kruger to the British army to withdraw from Boer land were refused, the Boer Republics declared war on England. Early in the war, the out-gunned and numerically smaller Boer commandos laid siege to English held towns of Ladysmith, Mefeking, and Kimberley, won tactical victories on four major battlefields, and made pre-emptive strikes in Natal and Cape Colony, winning too, the admiration of the world. Those time-consuming military confrontations bought time for Lord Roberts to mobilize armies to strike back, lift the sieges, and break up the Boer commandoes. The British ended the raids into their colony and captured the Boer capitol of Pretoria in June of 1900. For the next two years the Boers—who were master horsemen, crack shots, and stealthy guerilla fighters—harassed supply depots, tore up railroads, and attacked English outposts and patrols, suffering few losses themselves. They could fire from prone positions and sneak up on unwary British soldiers almost always exacting a toll. In May of 1900, with overwhelming numbers, the British finally lifted the siege of Mafeking, and captured Bloemfontein, the Capitol of the Orange Free State. On May 28, the British annexed the Orange Free State, renaming it Orange River Colony.

Boer guerrillas during the Second Boer War, circa 1900

A Boer family watches their homestead burn, an example of the scorched earth policy practiced by the British army during the Second Boer War

British General Lord Kitchener conducted a scorched-earth policy against the Transvaal, reminiscent of the American Union army in Georgia and the Shenandoah Valley, by burning the fields, crops and homes of the Boer farm families. His added touch of seizing their families and incarcerating them in concentration camps succeeded in convincing the commandoes to surrender, as well as resulting in the killing off of thousands of civilians through starvation and disease in the cooped up camps.

Boer women and children held in a British concentration camp during the Boer war

More than 26,000 Boer POWs were shipped to camps overseas in St. Helena, Ceylon, Bermuda, and India. The war finally ended in May of 1902, having brought a quarter million British troops into the fight. Volunteers from nine European countries fought for the Boers, though their governments did not officially side with President Kruger. The war brought death to about 300,000 horses as well as more than 30,000 women and children and at least 22,000 soldiers from all of the British Empire nations. It changed the political and national boundaries landscape of South Africa, and convinced the Boers to carry on war by diplomacy and pretended cultural amalgamation, from which they eventually took over political control later in the century. But that is another story

Captain Christopher Newport Founds Jamestown, Virginia Colony, 1607

2023-05-22T10:31:00-05:00May 22, 2023|HH 2023|

“They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; these see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep. For He commands, and raises the stormy wind, which lifts up the waves.”
—Psalm 107:23-30

Captain Christopher Newport Founds
Jamestown, Virginia Colony, May 24, 1607

On May 24, 1607, Captain Christopher Newport sailed his ship the Susan Constant and her companion vessels, the Godspeed and the Discovery up the river named for the English sovereign, King James, and put in to shore on an island. He called the fledgling colony Jamestown. Previous attempts of English colonization in the New World had failed or just disappeared; this one would survive, but barely. The English sailors and colonists built a stockade and mounted cannons facing the river, in case the Spanish sent a fleet from the Caribbean to exterminate them. The cannons pointed in the wrong direction, facing the wrong enemies.

Reenactors at the recreated Jamestown Settlement fire a cannon during a demonstration

Spanish explorers and conquistadors delivered to the monarchs of their recently unified country, in the 16th Century, a global empire, unmatched by any of their European rivals. Their colonies in the “New World” provided billions in gold, silver, gems, and raw materials that enabled Spain to sustain the only professional army on the continent and militarily rebuff their enemies: France, England, the “Holy Roman Empire,” and Portugal. Those rivals considered how they could compete for the endless riches, the millions of newly conquered peoples, and the unbounded prestige that came with their successful conquests.

Reenactors demonstrate clothing, weapons and tactics of the Jamestown Settlement era

England, under Queen Elizabeth I, had satisfied themselves with poaching the treasure ships of the Spanish Black Fleet and similarly laden vessels plying the “Spanish Main.” An imaginative and devout English clergyman named Richard Hakluyt believed that that strategy was short-sighted and inadequate. He hoped to provide England and his fellow English-speaking Reformation Protestants detailed blueprints for colonial advancement by summarizing the important and useful data of foreign empire acquisition. By interviewing explorers from many countries, reading their books and reports, as well as cosmologies that illustrated the strange and interesting cultures found in worlds previously unknown to the Europeans, Hakluyt hoped to build a case for the advance of England’s culture and commercial prosperity around the world. He articulated strategies that might enable England to evangelize the pagan tribes of North America, establish profitable enterprises, and beat Spain at their own game.

The first page of Richard Hakluyt’s work bearing the title of The Principal Navigations, Voiages, Traffiques and Discoueries of the English Nation, Made by Sea or Overland… at Any Time Within the Compasse of these 1500 [1600] Yeeres, &c

Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I of England (1533-1603) commemorating the defeat of the Spanish Armada, depicted in the background. Elizabeth’s hand rests on the globe, symbolising her international power. One of three known versions of the “Armada Portrait”.

The Queen, a voracious reader and brilliant political operator in her own right, was eventually convinced of the importance of English settlement, at least partly through the arguments of Richard Hakluyt filtered through the entreaties of her advisors. Attempts during her reign failed, notably those of her court favorite, Sir Walter Raleigh, but the vision prevailed past her death to her successor, James I.

Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618) was an English statesman, soldier, writer, explorer and court favorite of Queen Elizabeth I

James the VI of Scotland and I of England and Ireland (1566-1625) succeeded Elizabeth I to the throne

Wealthy Puritan merchants and noblemen formed the Virginia Company, a joint-stock investment consortium designed to subsidize the establishment of plantations in Virginia, a land named after Queen Elizabeth. The bounty of the New World would enrich the investors and adventurers and providentially establish English hegemony among the inhabitants of the wild lands of the North American continent even as they became Christians themselves.

The Company chose Captain Christopher Newport to lead the enterprise across the ocean and provide leadership, along with a handful of others, for the construction of a successful colony. Born in 1561, Newport had spent his life on the seas of the world, initially as a commercial trader and master-seaman. When an undeclared war broke out between England and Spain in 1585—which lasted off and on for abut twenty years—Newport captained a series of privateering ships, financed by the London merchant John Watts, raiding Spanish ports in the Caribbean and capturing their trading and treasure ships. In one fight with an enemy galleon, Newport lost an arm. He assisted in the capture of the Madre de Deus (“Mother of God”) in 1596, a Portuguese ship which proved to be the mother of all prizes of the century, laden with five hundred tons of silks, spices and gems. He sailed with the most famous of English privateers, Sir Francis Drake, and, by the end of his career, had raided the Spanish Main more times than Drake.

Captain Christopher Newport (1561–1617)

The James River, so named in honor of King James

The Virginia Company knew they had the right man to lead the adventure of a colonial start-up on the newly christened James River. Landing a little over a hundred colonists, Newport saw to the building of the fort that would protect the colony, and a week later, left with two of the ships to return to England for resupply. In the winter of 1607-08, more than half the colonists died from disease and starvation. Their relations with the local natives did not go well. The colonists had settled next to the most powerful and militant tribes of the region, and attempted to build a colony without bringing farmers to grow food, but carrying plenty of gentlemen in kid gloves to pick up the gold they hoped to find on the beaches and natives to obediently serve their needs. One of the council members, John Smith—a short, red-headed soldier of fortune—enabled the colony to hang on by a thread, forcing everyone to work, negotiating with the natives, and exploring the region with an eye for subsistence.

Captain John Smith (1580-1631)

A recreation of the fort at Jamestown Settlement

Seemingly at their last extremity, the survivors welcomed Christopher Newport, who arrived with supplies in January, 1608 and 120 more male colonists. He left for England immediately and returned in September with more supplies and colonists, including the first two women. Smith had continued his successful diplomacy with the local paramount chief, known by the colonists as Chief Powhatan, but relations between the two diverse cultures still made the success of the venture highly questionable.

A mass grave at Jamestown Settlement, discovered by archeologists

Newport’s third supply foundered on an island in the Bermudas but eventually arrived at Jamestown ten months later, where he found that 80% of the English colonists had died. After Captain Newport’s fifth mission to Jamestown, he made three voyages to India and died in Java in 1617 of unknown causes. Without Captain Christopher Newport, the colonizing venture of England’s first permanent colony in the New World likely would not have survived. Many interesting providential events accompanied his life, that of a pirate according to the Spanish. Towns, a city, and a university are named after him in the United States, and a powerful statue of the Captain is installed on the campus that bears his name. They are reminders of his importance to our history. The statue has two arms, for the artist believes our heroes should be shown as complete men. What do you think?

A replica of the Godspeed in New York, one of Newport’s ships on his first voyage to the New World

The Death of Henry Flagler, 1913

2023-05-15T18:10:20-05:00May 15, 2023|HH 2023|

“And I will let your numbers be increased, all the children of Israel, even all of them: and the towns will be peopled and the waste places will have buildings.” —Ezekiel 36:10

The Death of Henry Flagler, May 20, 1913

One hundred ten years ago Henry Flagler died. Outside of Florida, few Americans recognize his name. In his own day he was often mentioned in the same breath with John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, Cornelius Vanderbilt and J.P. Morgan, “industrial statesmen” and philanthropic billionaires all. St. Augustine, Florida boasts of the beautiful architecture and legacy of Flagler College. There are Flagler streets, a Flagler Island, Henry Morrison-Flagler Museum, Flagler Beach, and the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina. Although not perfect, Henry Flagler was a man of excellent character, entrepreneurial business genius, and indefatigable energy.

Henry Morrison Flagler (1830-1913)

Flagler’s immigrant ancestor, Zacharra Flegler, fled the Palatinate in Germany to the Reformed Church haven of the Netherlands in the auspicious year of 1688, the date of the “Glorious Revolution” in England, which brought the Dutch Prince William of Orange to the throne. Zacharra Flegler moved to England and then America in 1710. Henry was born to Presbyterian pastor Isaac Flagler in 1830. At the age of 14, Henry’s brother persuaded him to move to Ohio to join his paternal Uncle Lamon Harkness as a worker in his store.

Henry Flagler’s home in Bellevue, OH

Lamon Vanderburgh Harkness (1850-1915)

Daniel M. Harkness (1822-1896)

A hard worker, Henry eventually bought a stake in the company, and jumped at an opportunity to join his uncle in the grain transportation business, where he providentially met a Cleveland entrepreneur named John D. Rockefeller, who worked as a commission agent in the grain business. After a brief foray into the salt mines of Michigan to acquire government contracts to supply salt during the War Between the States—a venture that collapsed when the war ended—Henry Flagler returned to Ohio and grain transport. When Rockefeller approached Flagler’s step-brother for investment capital to form a start-up in the recently established oil business, Mr. Harkness, as part of the financial loan, insisted that Henry Flagler join as a partner. And thus, Henry Flagler became a partner in what became Standard Oil of Ohio, a business that became a multi-billion dollar corporation under the expert control and gaze of the Rockefeller/Flagler partnership. As the most profitable oil refinery business in Ohio, and eventually the world, Flagler, “the brains of the company,” built an incredible fortune, much of which would be invested in building railroads, beautiful buildings, and towns in Florida.

Share of the Standard Oil Company, issued May 1, 1878 and signed by Henry Flagler and John D. Rockefeller

John Davison Rockefeller (1839-1937)

Standard Oil Articles of Incorporation signed by John D. Rockefeller, Henry M. Flagler, Samuel Andrews, Stephen V. Harkness, and William Rockefeller, 1870

The illness of his wife, which eventually proved fatal, brought Henry Flagler to visit Jacksonville, Florida for the salubrious climate. Upon his remarriage in 1883, Flagler again visited Florida, moving down the coast to the city that charmed him and set his aesthetic and business juices flowing: St. Augustine. Recognizing the city’s potential for a grand hotel, development and tourism, Flagler designed and built the most technologically advanced and most beautiful hotel in the nation. Along with the Ponce de Leon Hotel, he built at least three churches, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Roman Catholic, as well as a rail line from Jacksonville to St. Augustine, to bring visitors to the city. Augustine to bring visitors to the city. Those projects were only the beginning of the fulfillment of the vision he had for Florida. He purchased and combined short line railroads and built a line that ran all the way to the Florida Keys.

Mary Harkness Flagler (1833-1881), first wife of Henry Flagler

Ponce de Leon Hotel postcard, now Flagler College, St. Augustine, FL


Flagler built the Alcazar Hotel to handle the “overflow” from the Ponce, and for tourists who wanted a beautiful place to stay but could not quite afford the Ponce de Leon. He also purchased the Casa Monica Hotel from his friend Franklin W. Smith, one of the original eccentrics of Florida history. He developed Daytona Beach, Palm Beach, and other coastal towns.

Alcazar Hotel, St. Augustine, FL (now the Lightner Museum)

Hotel Casa Monica, St. Augustine, FL

When Henry Flagler built a town, he brought in farmers to plant and raise crops, built churches for the worship of God, and civic buildings for local government. Flagler brought multiple thousands of workers from northern cities to do the construction, and the best engineers and building designers available in America. He eventually eased himself out of leadership work in Standard Oil to devout himself to his Florida projects. His partner John D. Rockefeller failed to understand the delight and joy that Henry Flagler found in his Florida projects and helping other people prosper. When he founded a major city in South Florida, the state wanted to name it Flagler, but the modest millionaire refused to have his name attached to the city and insisted it take the name of a nearby river, Miami.

Florida East Coast Railway, Key West Extension, express train at sea, crossing Long Key Viaduct, Florida

After falling down a flight of marble stairs at the age of 83, Flagler died on May 20, 1913. The overseas railway he built across the Florida Keys, an engineering marvel never before attempted, which lasted until destroyed by the hurricane of 1935. Nonetheless, the pillars he planted in the ocean now hold up the Overseas Highway across the Keys. He is buried next to his beloved daughter in the crypt of the Presbyterian Church he built in St. Augustine. The Ponce de Leon is now Flagler College, the main building of which is still one of the most beautiful ever built in America. Every year on our Florida tour in February, we spend an entire day studying the life and creative architectural wonders that God in His providential plan enabled Henry Flagler to create. Florida would not be Florida without him.

Florida East Coast Railway Overseas Railroad relief train derailed near Islamorada during the “Labor Day” Hurricane of 1935

Whitehall—the 75-room, 100,000-square-foot Gilded Age mansion and personal home of Henry Flagler in Palm Beach, Florida—now serves as the Flagler Museum

Join us in sunny Florida as we visit the magnificent Castillo de San Marcos, as well Henry Flagler’s luxurious Hotel Ponce de Leon (now Flagler College), one of the finest examples of Spanish Renaissance architecture. Learn More & Register >

A Deal Is Struck for the Louisiana Purchase, 1803

2023-05-01T19:31:58-05:00May 1, 2023|HH 2023|

“All things are done according to God’s plan and decision”.
—Ephesians 1:11a

A Deal Is Struck for the Louisiana Purchase, May 2, 1803

Two hundred twenty years ago this week the French flag was lowered and replaced by an American flag in New Orleans, the capitol city of the Louisiana Territory. In one stroke, the size of the United States doubled, all or parts of fifteen future western states were added—eight hundred thirty thousand square miles purchased at about four cents an acre. Known as the “Louisiana Purchase,” God, through an astounding series of providences, had placed in the hands of the Americans an absolutely breath-taking bargain which the author of the deal, President Thomas Jefferson, opined in a colossal understatement that “the fertility of the country, its climate and extent, promise in due season important aids to our treasury, an ample provision for our posterity, and a wide-spread field for the blessings of freedom.”

Flag-raising in the Place d’Armes (now Jackson Square), New Orleans, marking the transfer of sovereignty over French Louisiana to the United States, December 20, 1803

Map of United States with the land acquired during the Louisiana Purchase shown in white

France entered the European explorations of the New World in the 16th Century. It was not until April 9, 1682, however, that Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle “erected a cross and column near the mouth of the Mississippi and solemnly read a declaration to a group of bemused Indians,” claimed the entire Mississippi River Basin for France. He named the region in honor of Louis XIV, the French King who ruled for more than seventy-two years, expelled Protestants from France, and started multiple wars in Europe. In 1718 another nobleman-explorer, Jean-Baptiste le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville founded New Orleans. Louis XIV gave the territory to his Bourbon cousin Charles III of Spain in 1763, which laid the stamp of Spain on the architecture and culture. In 1802, Napoleon secretly negotiated a treaty to re-acquire Louisiana for France once again, which Charles exchanged for a small kingdom in northern Italy that he wanted for his daughter Louisetta. That obscure deal set in motion a chain of providential events that eventually led to American hegemony over the entire continent.

La Salle taking possession of Louisiana and the Mississippi River in the name of Louis XIV of France

Robert Livingston (1746-1813), United States Minister to France

Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord (1754-1838), French diplomat

Thomas Jefferson suspected that Napoleon wanted to close the Mississippi River to American shipping traffic, or make it a financial windfall for France and give them power over that commerce. He also considered the Mississippi the gateway to the continent and New Orleans the key to unlock that potential. He dispatched a letter to the American minister in Paris, Robert Livingston, to approach the French foreign minister, Talleyrand, a secretive and unscrupulous operator if there ever was one, and offer to purchase New Orleans if the secret treaty was already a done deal. Talleyrand, whose contempt for the United States was palpable, denied any knowledge of a treaty with Spain.

James Monroe (1758-1831)

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821)

France readied a 7,000 man army to sail to Saint Domingue (now Haiti) to springboard into New Orleans. In March, 1802, the combination of a revolt in Haiti and a massive yellow fever epidemic destroyed the French army. The Emperor prepared another military force in French-controlled Netherlands to set sail and put down the revolt in Haiti and garrison New Orleans. In January of 1803 the expedition became ice-bound in Dutch ports and missed their rendezvous. Jefferson sent James Monroe, former Governor of Virginia, to join Livingstone in Paris and offer up to nine million dollars to Napoleon for New Orleans and part of Florida. Monroe had to sell his furniture and china to arrange travel funds, and sailed for France on March 8, 1803. By the time of his arrival in Paris on April 8, Napoleon had suddenly changed his mind and decided Louisiana held no value to him compared to Saint Domingue’s production of sugar, coffee, indigo, cotton and cocoa which provided some 700 shiploads per year and was the main platform of French colonial profitability in the New World. Furthermore, Napoleon was gearing up for another war with Britain and desperately needed to replenish his military coffers.

The Haitian Revolution

Harvesting sugarcane at a sugar plantation in the West Indies

The British offered Napoleon’s brother Joseph a hundred thousand pounds to talk the Emperor out of any deals with the Americans. The diminutive dictator rebuffed his brother’s entreaty (while soaking in his bathtub!) and ordered both his finance minister and Talleyrand to offer the whole of the Louisiana Territory to the United States, declaring, “I renounce Louisiana, it is not only New Orleans I will cede, it is the whole colony without reservation . . . I require a great deal of money for this war [with Britain].” It would prove the most important real estate deal of the century, perhaps in all of history.

New Orleans in 1803

At a dinner party, the French minister offered Monroe and Livingstone the entire territory and city for twenty-two million dollars. Shocked, but recognizing a windfall, they countered with an offer of eight million. In the end the negotiators settled for fifteen million on May 2nd, back-dated to April 29. It was an amount that the United States treasury could not afford, nor were the American ambassadors authorized to make that deal in the first place. The resourceful treasurer of France, François Barbé-Marbois, proposed that his contacts with Britain’s Baring Bros. Bank in London could produce the cash, to be repaid over fifteen years at six percent interest. They closed the purchase.

Treaty between the United States of America and the French Republic ceding the province of Louisiana to the United States

In New Orleans, the territory of Louisiana is formally transferred from French control to the United States

The news arrived in America on July 3; Monroe and Livingstone probably had their fingers crossed that the President would bend a little on his principles and the Senate would fall in line with the contract. Congressman Josiah Quincy of Massachusetts so opposed the deal that he favored secession by the Northeastern states “amicably if they can, violently if they must.” Jefferson had already sent Lewis and Clark to explore the Louisiana Territories all the way to the Pacific. The French governor in New Orleans burst into tears, and the British bided their time for eleven years before sending a military expedition to take New Orleans in the War of 1812. But that is another story of incredible providences.

ANZACs Land at Gallipoli, 1915

2023-04-25T18:08:59-05:00April 25, 2023|HH 2023|

ANZACs Land at Gallipoli, April 25, 1915

The military campaign in Gallipoli, in 1915, is little known or remembered in the United States. The U.S. did not join the 1914-1918 War until two years later, and the geographical area of the campaign seems remote and strategically irrelevant to the war in the trenches of France. In 1981, Australian filmmaker Peter Weir released a film with the title of that battle of long ago, starring Mark Lee and Mel Gibson. Gallipoli won many awards and provided the world with a stunning reminder of the sacrifices of young Australian and New Zealand men, known as ANZACs (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps), in the First World War. The Campaign lasted eight months and cost more than a half million casualties.

New Zealand troops land at Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, Turkey

The war pitted the Allied nations, primarily England, France, Italy, Russia, and their respective empires against the Central Powers: Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire which included Turkey and most of the Middle East. France and Great Britain and their main opponent, Germany, settled into a complex of trenches across France and Belgium. A full year of war only brought about the digging of trenches deeper and more sophisticated, and fruitless assaults across no-man’s land. With the stalemate on the “Western Front,” the English high command—led by First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill and the First Sea Lord Admiral Sir John Fisher—developed an offensive plan that would send a British fleet through the Dardenalles Straits and land an army to knock Turkey out of the war, draw Bulgaria and Greece onto the side of the Allies, and stall the Turkish offensive against Russia in the Caucasus.

Map of the Gallipoli region of Turkey, showing ANZAC Bay

The army was preparing for the spring offensives and said they couldn’t spare the men. The Navy thought they could, perhaps, attack by themselves and bombard Constantinople. None of the Allies seriously thought the Turks could withstand pressure, and that popular uprisings would finish off the Turkish government. In reality, the Turks, with German aid, had bolstered their shore artillery, trained a credible army, and sowed the sea lanes with mines. They prepared well for what the British thought would be a big surprise. The run of the British ships through the last twenty miles of the straits would have to first navigate the “Narrows,” with twenty forts, hundreds of artillery positions and strings of mines. There would be a surprise, but it would not be for the Turks. On February 19, the fleet entered the Dardenalles with guns blazing. Several French and British battleships blew up and the whole expedition withdrew. The Allied high command decided to land troops on the Gallipoli Peninsula and fight the Turkish army the old-fashioned way, setting the stage for one of the great military disasters of all time.

Landing of Australian troops at ANZAC cove, April 25, 1915

The forty-nine mile long and four mile wide Gallipoli peninsula extends along the Aegean Sea on the west, and the Dardenalles Strait to the east, on the European part of Turkey. General Kitchner appointed Sir Ian Hamilton to lead the 78,000 men of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Forces. To the Allied Army were added the Australian and New Zealand Divisions (ANZACs) currently training in Egypt. The Royal Navy Division, the 29th Infantry, and French troops were also combined, to throw 300,000 men against about 255,000 Turkish defenders. The allies underestimated the fighting qualities of the Ottoman Army since they had not fared well in earlier wars and battles, and their Empire itself was known as “the sick man of Europe.” German arms and military advisors, who became the senior officers, helped steel the Turks for the coming invasion and, in the end, repelled the Allies at enormous cost to both sides. The British took four weeks to organize a landing, giving the Ottomans plenty of time to prepare defenses on both sides of the peninsula.

The Turks were well-armed…

…and fortified

On April 25, 1915, the Allies landed on five beaches. The ANZAC troops landed on the Aegean side of the peninsula with the goal of advancing across the narrow peninsula and cutting off Turkish reinforcements. At 4:00 A.M. the first wave of Australians hit the beach just south of Ari Burnu, lightly defended, two miles further north than originally planned. Without accurate maps and in unknown territory, the ANZAC offensive stalled as Ottoman reinforcements were rushed to the hills above the landing zone and the defenses stiffened. The terrain was broken and cut by deep ravines. The defenders counterattacked and the ANZACs dug in after losing about 2,000 men. The other allied brigades landed at other areas around the peninsula, none of them achieving anywhere near their objectives. Ottoman reinforcements arrived at all the battlefields and the campaign settled into a battle of attrition, with attacks and counterattacks being mowed down by machine-gun fire and artillery shells.

ANZAC graves at one cemetery in Gallipoli

Australian and New Zealand troops were landed at other beaches and extended the fruitless charges against fortified positions defended by machine guns. In one massive Ottoman attack on May 18, they suffered 13,000 casualties trying to push the ANZAC troops into the sea. Over the next couple months the Allied commitment of troops increased from five divisions to fifteen and the Turks from six to sixteen. Further landings produced further failures of offensive actions for both sides as the slaughter continued unabated. As an Australian historian recorded:

Australian troops charging an Ottoman trench, just before the evacuation at Anzac

“Conditions at Gallipoli grew worse for everyone as summer heat and poor sanitation resulted in an explosion in the fly population. Eating became extremely difficult as unburied corpses became bloated and putrid. The precarious Allied lodgements were poorly situated, which caused supply and shelter problems. A dysentery epidemic spread through the Allied trenches at Anzac and Helles, while the Ottomans also suffered heavily from disease which resulted in many deaths. . . . Autumn and winter brought relief from the heat but also led to gales, blizzards and flooding, resulting in men drowning and freezing to death, while thousands suffered frostbite.

New Zealand soldiers in their ANZAC encampment in Gallipoli

The Allied armies withdrew from the precarious and deadly battlefields of Gallipoli in December and January, with minimal losses, the most successful operations of the entire campaign. In the campaign, Australia and New Zealand lost more than 35,000 men. Although representing about 20% of the total Allied losses, the percentage of men from the small populations of those two nations was so significant that few families were untouched by the Gallipoli Campaign, and to this day, May 25 is ANZAC Day in Australia and New Zealand, a remembrance of the campaign that devastated their respective countries of the English Commonwealth. Today, ANZAC tradition means “courage, endurance, and mateship.”

The Çanakkale Martyrs’ Memorial at Gallipoli Peninsula Historical Site, commemorating the loss of Ottoman and Anzac soldiers on the Gallipoli Peninsula

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