Evacuation of Gallipoli begins

15 December 1915

The evacuation of Suvla Bay by Geoffrey Allfree (Alexander Turnbull Library, A-176-003)

In a well-planned operation which contrasted sharply with those mounted earlier in the Gallipoli campaign, Allied troops were successfully withdrawn from Anzac Cove and Suvla Bay between 15 and 20 December.

Following the failure of the August offensive, the British government began questioning the value of continuing to fight at Gallipoli, especially given the need for troops on the Western Front and at Salonika in northern Greece, where Allied forces were supporting Serbia against the Central Powers. In October, the British replaced General Sir Ian Hamilton as commander-in-chief of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. His successor, Lieutenant-General Sir Charles Munro, quickly proposed evacuation.

On 22 November, the British decided to cut their losses and evacuate Suvla and Anzac. Planning moved quickly and efficiently. The evacuation of Anzac Cove began on 15 December, with 36,000 troops withdrawn over the following five nights. The last party left in the early hours of 20 December, the night of the last evacuation from Suvla Bay. British and French forces remained at Cape Helles until 8-9 January 1916.

Gallipoli had been a costly failure for the Allies: 44,000 soldiers died trying to take the peninsula from the Ottomans. Among the dead were 2779 New Zealanders – nearly a sixth of those who fought on the peninsula. Victory came at a high price for the Ottoman Empire, which lost 87,000 men during the campaign.

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