Shaping British and Anzac Soldiers’ Experience of Gallipoli: Environmental and Medical Factors, and the Development of Trench Warfare


  • Gary Sheffield University of Wolverhampton


It is rare to find explicit analyses of factors that influenced the soldiers’ experience of war. This article explores the extent to which British and Anzac combatants had agency during the Gallipoli campaign of 1915-16. It argues that, while not wholly absent, the agency of individuals was severely limited by external factors, major and minor. The underestimation of the Ottoman defenders by British strategic decision- makers led to the dispatch of a force to the Dardanelles that was inadequate for the task. This shaped the soldiers’ experience in a number of ways, not least in that the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force was poorly prepared and equipped for the trench warfare campaign that ensued. In this article, some of the most important factors that influenced the experience of British Empire combatants are examined in detail, including the effect of climate and terrain; sanitation and medical support; rations; and the development of trench warfare. Gallipoli was moulded by factors that produced a campaign that, even by the standards of 1914- 18, was unpleasant, dangerous and gruelling for the men who fought there.