The 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign will be marked today.
The military initiative was the brainchild of Winston Churchill, the then first lord of the Admiralty.
It was a disaster and Churchill’s reputation never fully recovered until he became prime minister in the 1940s, and helped reverse the fortunes of the Allies in the later war.
It is easy with hindsight to dismiss his foolishness in an attempting to open up a second front against the Turks. But the war was in disastrous stalemate on the Western front, with huge loss of life every time either belligerent tried to move.
Prince Harry, who will be at today’s commemorations in Turkey, is an increasingly rare example of a young man who has put on a uniform in defence of his country. He knows service personnel who lost limbs in the prime of their lives in Afghanistan. The Great War had countless such losses.
The Irish president, Michael Higgins, is also at the commemorations, marking the fact that the Royal Dublin and Royal Munster Fusiliers led the way in the campaign. Many other Irish soldiers served in different capacities over the following eight months, until the peninsula was evacuated. An Ulster regiment, the Inniskilling Fusiliers, suffered badly.
The campaign is associated mainly with the New Zealand and Australia servicemen whose experiences left a deep imprint in the psyche of those two countries.
The campaign did not fail merely due to ineptness. The Allies came up against brave resistance, with some 87,000 Turks killed, dwarfing the 58,000 Allied fatalities.
Gallipoli is a reminder of how much safer the world is for young men in Europe, America and the Antipodes than it was a century ago. Our military and technological superiority ensures Western hegemony, but it is far from clear how long that will continue.
Today we give thanks for our good fortune and remember those who died to help ensure our privilege and freedom.