By Stephen Chambers
Published by Pen & Sword Military 2021 in its Battleground series
Paperback. 226 pages plus notes, bibliography and index. Illustrated.
ISBN 978 1 47387 547 0
Reviewed by Chris Baker
Copy kindly provided by the publisher.
For Gallipoli enthusiasts, the name of Stephen Chambers is likely to be familiar, for he is the author of four other books on the area that have been produced for Pen & Sword’s “Battleground” series. “Krithia” is his last, coming on the heels of “Anzac landing”, “Anzac Sari Bair”, “Gully Ravine” and “Suvla August Offensive”. Between them, they cover just about every part of the land over which the campaign was fought in 1915. Like others in the series, “Krithia” is part-history, part-guidebook.
The book’s title is perhaps slightly misleading, for it is the name of a village lying near the hill of Achi Baba, an objective of the British and French landings at Cape Helles that was never remotely reached. Krithia gave its name to the official titles of three attacks made as the British tried and failed to break out of the confines of the Helles beach-head, and so this insignificant place – still with a population of fewer than 700 – entered the history books. It is today called Alçıtepe.
The first 166 pages of the book are made up of chapters in chronological order, taking the reader through the seaborne landings on the beaches of Helles on 25 April 1915 and the deadly work of holding onto a narrow and crammed bridgehead; the terribly costly efforts to break out and advance over the period up to 4 June; the period of what was in effect entrenched warfare in the gullies, nullahs and ridges of summer; and the evacuation of late 1915 and early 1916, once sanity had taken hold and the campaign was abandoned. I found the descriptions good and vivid, and enjoyed the many references to individual men’s stories. It was also good to see the French contribution was not neglected. There are good maps and the whole book is profusely illustrated. If anything, it all left me with a sense of disappointment and sadness, for the failures at Gallipoli can not be assigned to lack of effort, bravery or endurance. Those same qualities also applied to the Ottoman defence of the area and it is good to see that the author has woven in some consideration from that side of the wire. I sense that he did his best in this regard, given the constraints of access and language. Turkish sources do appear to be opening up somewhat these days and I hope that future studies are able to build up a more balanced view of events than has usually been the case before.
From page 167 onwards the book switches into the description of six tours of parts of the battlefield, of which one is dedicated to the area of French activity. Gallipoli is a beautiful place, tranquil and abundant but not for the faint-hearted when it comes to trekking around it. There is good advice on how to tackle it, and the tours – which are for walkers, for access to most areas is by tracks and over often-rough ground, and of a few miles distance each – are well described and clearly full of sites to see.
A great addition to the series and yet another one to fill your backpack when heading off to this memorable part of the world.