Gallipoli 1915 - 'War on the Cheap'

seaweed

LE
Book Reviewer
RIP
J P Harrison has sent ARRSE a 79 page 'thesis' on this. I was asked to review. This is not a work in the public domain but is attached for those who wish to download and read themselves.

A short thesis on Gallipoli such as this one faces the problem of trying to say something original; the strategic and tactical shortcomings of the campaign and its leadership, right up to Government level, have been thoroughly worked over many times in the ensuing century. This paper opens with a tour d'horizon of the history and events that led up to the campaign, and then continues with a description of events prior to, during and after the landings, the ongoing campaign and the eventual evacuation.

I found the often journalese, sometimes slangy style of writing, with too much purple prose, inappropriate, even tedious. In any case the whole thing is badly written. The misuse of colons jarred. I really do not understand some of the author's uses of italics. There are some spelling mistakes ('loathe' for 'loath', 'precedence' for 'precedents' for instance). There is also inappropriate use of capital letters. 'Sub's' (p.61) is bad enough for its misplaced apostrophe but the word should have been 'submarines'. And what does 'considerable intervals of his force would be separated' (p.33) actually mean? All of this degrades the reader's confidence in the author and also makes reading his text unnecessarily hard work. This is all aggravated by the structure being jerky. In a chronological sense it does not flow smoothly. Throughout there is a tendency to repetition.

As to the meat of the matter, there are some rather glib judgments, particularly relating to matters outside the theatre, for instance describing the essential Somme offensive (without which, arguably, the French army would have collapsed) as 'infamous'. This sort of thing degrades the reader's confidence in the author's knowledge base. Assertions of any controversial nature in an academic thesis need to be visibly proven. Many of its criticisms seem to be informed by hindsight; it is important to see the defects in planning and organisation through 1915 eyes and to recognise that nobody had ever fought a war on this scale, or of this sort, before (although this theme does come up, briefly, for treatment at various points). It took time to recognise and get a grip on the ammunition shortage - we had not deliberately prepared for war like the Germans, but by the end one of our ammunition factories was nine mile long. These problems are a pity as the author does a good job of presenting hard facts and hard numbers from his research. There is an element of a scatter-gun approach. The death of Rupert Brooke had no military significance; there are other pieces of irrelevant padding.

I fear (but have no means of testing this) that the quotations used may be selective.

I started listing individual points of criticism but there are too many. Just at the start:

- Turkey had already earned the nickname 'sick man of Europe' by 1853, never mind 1914.
- One might prefer Churchill to be referred to by his proper title, 'First Lord of the Admiralty' rather than 'Navy Minister'.

and so on. I am reviewing, not proof-reading!

Technically the author has touched on, but bounced off the difficulty of using naval guns, with their high velocity and thus flat trajectory, and ammunition optimised for use against enemy ships, against trenches. Historically, I do not see him making the connection between the defeat of Townsend at Kut and its release of Turkish troops for Gallipoli.

The author has appended a lengthy bibliography. A complete list of books on Gallipoli would fill several volumes! However one might recommend two more:
Moorhead, Alan 'Gallipoli'
Mortlock, Michael J, 'The Landings at Suvla Bay, 1915'

Most seriously Harrison has, to me, missed the point about Churchill completely; his dominating, not to say domineering, personality was not matched by any understanding of logistics, or of naval or military (as opposed to political) strategy, in which of course he had had no education (as he was again to demonstrate in the next World War, where, mercifully, senior officers stood up to him rather better - some of the time). Upwards and downwards the Government and the military and naval leaders were bullied by him into an impossible situation and then left to be blamed for it. Otherwise Harrison has correctly (but unfortunately repeatedly) capitulated the main factors which led to defeat, fundamentally the want of means, and inexperience at very senior levels - which latter is hardly surprising. The whole paper could usefully be written with a much crisper structure and in better English. However the main theme is not original, leaving this as a journalistic article rather than an academic thesis.

There will be a Gallipoli bandwagon next year. This piece does not deserve a place on it.
 

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JWBenett

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Good afternoon, I am new to the site and wish to say hello and write up my first posting with a review if I may. This review cropped up on Arrse two Sundays ago and also shows up on Google. Harrison says Gallipoli caused shifts in geopolitics, and in the art of war. The Liberal majority in Britain changed to a coalition. Had Gallipoli not been lost: the course of world politics to date might have turned out very different, says the author. I got this paper for free and the big picture on Gallipoli 1915 from start to finish. there are several actors sourced from authoritative publications. Harrison's work will be very useful for newcomers to this Gallipoli campaign, so I didn’t think the document was so bad. And of course, it simply is not.

There is repetition and a lot of commas in some places,and it's long. But if it really was so terrible it would have no structure, it would have poor spelling and grammar, and very few reliable sources. Then it would be worthless. But this paper isn’t any of those, I have before me almost everything I wanted to know about Gallipoli plus a lot of evidence from witnesses and respectable writers of the period. And I know why it failed.

Harrison clearly states that his PDF is a narrative adaptation of formal academic work, perhaps towards an accessible product, I cannot know. I read War on the Cheap over the last week finding unbiased and honest counterarguments including the Ottomans and the Germans. Rather refreshing and actually not revisionist. Two problems I have with the paper are the italics and repetition in places. However it is common to quote in italics, for those who don’t know this guards against plagiarism. This was a mistake he shouldn’t repeat in any other narrative for fear of the backlash, but at least Harrison has thought for himself and should be commended for his respect towards venerable sources. The one thing I wish to mention most, is Harrison's sensitive treatment and respect shown to personalities involved in that Gallipoli campaign. In turn, some might consider Harrison deserves respect for his efforts and hard work.

Many arguments and a few agreements with Seaweed had been prepared, but there just isn't the space here nor should a first post be argumentative and disrespectful. I myself reviewed Harrison’s arguments, the paper's content and the evidence, rather than criticise the writing which would have been ironed out by professional checkers and publishers, had this been a commercial offering from one of the big publishers.The paper seems to have been donated, I downloaded it some time ago without even signing in. And Harrison probably stands to gain nothing from it.

The paper doesn’t claim to be purely military centric but it’s factual, and judging by its membership neither is this site purely military. Therefore I wasn’t going to crayon all over this paper on any serious public forum, without first studying it or thinking about it. Harrison’s “War on the Cheap” gives us new angles on that “cheap campaign” which previously escaped my attention. Rupert Brooke was a serving soldier when he died so in fact he belongs here. Harrison also tackles the actors and politics of 1915 in ways some people obviously will not like. Perhaps matelots’, political sympathies and revisionists’ sensibilities will be hurt, but Harrison uses first hand accounts in frank discussions and doesn’t take sides. In my view the paper uses multiple sources and is not selective. There are sensible arguments and evidence to support the title and theme, which seems to have been Harrison's job all along. In summary, yes it is relevant and while it won't crack the history elite or the Amazon crowd, the fact that this is hard research and hard work, possibly over several months, certainly doesn't warrant the bin or the fire.

It is unusual writing to say the least, in fact it reads as if citations have been removed from the paragraphs, so this perhaps did start out as an academic paper. Harrison says things which will offend people especially revisionists, territorial "experts", and precious types. The chronology and flow do seem to work despite Harrison’s use of flashbacks in the story, that might be intentional, but as someone who’s written plenty of this stuff and well aware of tricks some historians and reviewers employ to smash people's work, I would disagree and say the author is not a journalist. Put simply, rubbishing a piece of work and then expecting us to believe it's the product of a journalist, is in itself patently absurd.

I guessed the author lost their way a little, but Harrison faithfully quotes sources verbatim, substantiating and consolidating his or her own arguments. It is their own original work, bravo for that. And as I understand things - that is the whole point of academic theses and philosophy. ‘Purple prose’ is another questionable criticism, Harrison kept my attention with interesting language never excessively flowery and certainly not out of place.

Any thesis has to have a start, a middle, and an end, with conclusions made up of the meat of the thesis. Sources for this work are meticulously identified, and faithfully listed so accurately that I was able to find books in an instant. Most of what I expected to see was achieved, but the work needs trimming and cleaning up while Harrison never pretends this version is an academic piece. In these days of online courses, "essay improvement services" and increasingly laissez faire universities, it is refreshing to see people having a go, and with some effort and integrity.


4 mushroom heads from me.
 

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