Peter Hart is the Oral Historian at the Imperial War Museum and an internationally recognised expert on Gallipoli - so the packed audience was in for a stimulating hour. Expertly chaired by Sheena McDonald, we were given a fascinating account of why this battle was such a disaster for the Allied Forces.
Peter Hart said that he was clear that the landings at Gallipoli were foolhardy and ill conceived from the start and for this much of the blame must rest with Churchill. He claimed that the local commander, General Hamilton, was not incompetent, nor was he beset by 'bad luck', rather the whole operation was undertaken too casually and the Turkish forces had been badly underestimated. Hamilton was what Peter Hart described as a "can do general" and this may prove dangerous as it did in Gallipoli as he tried to do too much rather than carefully nurturing his forces.
The administration and logistic preparation for the landings were incompetent and the commanders preparations bordered on criminal negligence. For naval battleships to be sent into the invasion with their main armament not having been zeroed is something which no commander should have accepted. The plan was to zero the guns against the Turks! Fisher, as First Sea Lord, was overpowered intellectually by Churchill and failed to stand up to him or demand that his views be listened to by the Cabinet.
But Hart believes that the whole operation should never have been undertaken. He considers that it was a massive waste of men and munitions which would have been much better employed in the fight against the Germans as the main enemy on the Western Front. The invasion failed to knock Turkey out of the war and certainly did nothing to influence the Balkan states who viewed the expedition with incredulity.
Of course the Allies did eventually overcome Germany and they returned to establish themselves in the Gallipoli area for several years but nothing can eradicate the disaster that wasted so many Allied lives.
The book looks fascinating and should prove a splendid read.
Event: Wednesday 17 August 2011, 14:30