The traces of the Dardanelles Campaign, considered as the most significant milestone in the modern Turkish history after the Turkish War of Independence, can be followed in the heart of London, thousands of kilometres away from the Gallipoli Peninsula. The military and political actors of this bloody war that left its mark indelibly in both the World and British history took the most vital decisions in the most critical moments between the walls of various historical buildings in Westminster. Now, please take a deep breath and get ready to take a deep dive into these witnesses of history, which were often ignored by even the Londoners themselves!
The first touristic attractions that draw attention outside the Westminster underground station are the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben Clock Tower renamed as Elizabeth Tower in 2012. The Parliament Square, located just opposite the Parliament, also hosts the colossal statue of Sir Winston Spencer Churchill (WSC), one of the first names to come to mind when it comes to the Dardanelles Campaign. Although he would later lead Britain to a great victory against Hitler, the year 1915 was engraved on the pages of history as a time Churchill never desired to remember. This bronze statue was erected on the square in 1973, eight years after Churchill’s death.
When you walk from the Churchill statue down to the famous Trafalgar Square, you will be welcomed by Whitehall Street, the heart of the UK politics and bureaucracy. Undoubtedly the most prominent structure here is ‘Number 10’, namely the Prime Minister’s Office. Number 10 on Downing Street, which has been the official residence of British prime ministers since the 18th century, also played host to the British Imperial War Council that would later decide to launch the naval operations in the Dardanelles Campaign. Although Downing Street is not open to the public today, the street’s armed police-guarded entrance is one of the most photographed points in London by tourists.
Lord Kitchener, the Secretary of State for War during the Dardanelles Campaign, briefly served as the British military vice-consul in 1880 at the Kastamonu province of Turkey.
The Queen’s Life Guard
Our next stop on Whitehall Street is the Horse Guards Parade, where the British soldiers in their ceremonial clothing welcome visitors on their majestic horses. Just across the street before entering this historic site, you can see the old War Office building. It was once home to the headquarters of Lord Horatio Herbert Kitchener (the War Minister), another important British decision-maker in Dardanelles. Planned to be transformed into a five-star luxury hotel nowadays, the land operation phase of the Dardanelles Campaign was monitored minute-by-minute under the roof of this historic building.
The Horse Guards building also served as the headquarters of General Ian Hamilton, the commander of the allied troops in the Dardanelles Campaign, before moving to Gallipoli. When you pass under the arched entrance of the Horse Guards building, you will meet an extensive square where you can watch the elaborate guard change ceremony. In your next visit to London, don’t forget to record these colourful moments with your camera and take a selfie with the mounted guards at the entrance of this unique area.
Number 10 on Downing Street, which has been the official residence of British prime ministers since the 18th century, also played host to the Imperial War Council that would later decide to launch the naval operations in the Dardanelles Campaign.
Starting Point of the Rout: The Admiralty
Another historic structure stretching along the northern edge of the square is the Admiralty, the main headquarters of the Royal Navy which ruled the world’s seas and oceans for hundreds of years. The final draft of the naval operation, which has resulted in a disastrous defeat in Dardanelles on 18 March 1915, was shaped between the walls of this building. Winston Churchill was among its occupants as well. He oversaw the Royal Navy (1911-1915) as the First Lord of the Admiralty from his office in this building.
Another reminder of the bloody Dardanelles Campaign is the Royal Naval Division memorial standing on the northwest corner of the Horse Guards Parade facing St James’s Park. This elite unit, which was formed by Churchill at the outset of the First World War, served at various fronts at Gallipoli and suffered heavy casualties. To commemorate all these sacrifices, it was inaugurated by Winston Churchill on 25 April 1925 on the 10th anniversary of the Dardanelles Campaign.
From Kastamonu to Gallipoli: Lord Kitchener
The last stop on our route is the statue of Lord Kitchener standing in the shade of the trees adjacent to ‘Number 10’ just across the Admiralty. During the Dardanelles Campaign, he served as the Secretary of State for War and personally visited the Gallipoli Peninsula to inspect his troops in November 1915. But in fact, this was not his first visit to Turkey. In 1880, he briefly served as a military vice-consul in the Kastamonu province. Kitchener would later lose his life in the summer of 1916 while on a diplomatic mission aboard the armoured cruiser HMS Hampshire en route for Russia as a result of a hit by a German mine in the North Sea.
After this brief tour of British history and culture, you can enjoy the rest of your day by exploring the exotic natural beauty of St. James’s Park. Bon voyage!u