New exhibition challenging the Myth and Memory of Gallipoli

04 March 2015

New exhibition challenging the Myth and Memory of Gallipoli

A new exhibition promising to challenge the historical perceptions of a major First World War campaign is to open at the National Museum of the Royal Navy this March.

Gallipoli: Myth and Memory is the second in the National Museum of the Royal Navy’s series of exhibitions about The Great War at Sea 1914-1918. Through never-before-seen exhibits and witness accounts, the displays re-tell the misunderstood story of Gallipoli, which has been distorted by national myth.

2015 marks the centenary of the Gallipoli campaign, in what is now modern day Turkey, and Myth and Memory explores every element from troop deployment to their evacuation nearly a year later. Initially intended to be a purely naval campaign, on 25 April 1915 forces from Australia, New Zealand, Britain and France landed at three points on the peninsula. Fierce fighting resulted in over 200,000 Allied casualties, with many deaths coming from disease.

This exhibition will show that the Royal Navy was instrumental in supporting operations on land, and highlight how the Gallipoli campaign was supported, supplied and eventually evacuated by all branches of the naval service. The evacuation is considered the best-executed segment of the campaign and the last British troops departed on 8 January 1916.

Strategic Development Executive and historian from the National Museum of the Royal Navy Historian, Nick Hewitt said, “The exhibition is designed to put the Royal Navy back at the heart of the Gallipoli story. The importance of the Navy’s contribution from Royal Marines, the submarine service, the Royal Naval Air Service and the surface fleet, is too often overlooked by history. We plan to set the record straight and tell the story through the use of the magnificent collections from across the National Museum of the Royal Navy.”

Other historically held perceptions to be challenged by Myth and Memory include the notion that Gallipoli was the missed opportunity to end the First World War, however many modern historians now agree that defeating Turkey wouldn’t have ended the war and may have kept Russia involved for longer.

Often thought of as a British defeat fought by Australian and New Zealand (ANZAC) soldiers, Gallipoli is understood by many as a failure of British leadership. In reality, Gallipoli was an Allied operation approved by Allied politicians; planned and executed by British, French and Anzac commanders working in coalition.

The exhibition will showcase a variety of objects that document the Royal Navy’s contribution to and involvement in the campaign, including prints of the landings on 25 April, articles of warfare, exclusive diaries and personal letters.

Following ‘Gallipoli: Myth and Memory’, on the 6th August 2015 Gallipoli survivor HMS M.33 will open to the public at Portsmouth

Historic Dockyard. She is the sole remaining British veteran of that year’s bloody Campaign and the only Royal Navy warship from the First World War opening to the public.