Why were Australians sent to Gallipoli?
At the outbreak of The First World War in 1914 thousands of young men, to support their King and mother country, eagerly volunteered for military service in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF), expecting to be sent to France or Belgium. After the German invasion of France the war quickly deteriorated into a stalemate and a 500 mile line of trench defences stretched from Switzerland to the English Channel.
After an appeal by Russia to its allies, Britain and France, a plan was formulated to capture the narrow straights of the Dardanelles and force the surrender of the city of Constantinople by a naval assault supported by the army. This would assist Russia greatly against the Turks as this strategically located waterway, which divides Europe from Asia, links the Russian Black Sea ports to the Mediterranean Sea. It was hoped that Turkey would quickly surrender.
If successful, this would assure Britain the security of the Suez Canal and open a warm water supply route to Russia. It would also draw the unaligned Balkan nations into supporting an allied advance against Germany and Austria-Hungary on a new southern front to break the trench warfare deadlock of the Western Front.
The Royal Navy suffered heavy losses and failed to penetrate the heavily mined and fortified Dardanelles. Plans were reversed and a land assault of the Gallipoli Peninsula became the priority to eliminate Turkish land defenses to allow the navy to proceed to Constantinople.