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The Epoch Times
The Epoch Times
1 Apr 2023

NextImg:Book Review: 'ANZAC Soldier Versus Ottoman Soldier: Gallipoli and Palestine 1915–18'

War creates cultural collisions. In Si Sheppard’s militaristic comparison and contrast of Ottoman soldiers and those of Australia and New Zealand, the cultural divisions are easy to notice even before the collision. Sheppard utilizes battles from World War I in his book “ANZAC Soldier Versus Ottoman Soldier: Gallipoli and Palestine 1915–18” to point out the differences in military gear, strategy, and even enlistment requirements.

The author artfully describes how the soldiers of these two empires were dragged into combat. “Subject and colonial peoples from around the world were suddenly tasked with the obligation of shouldering arms at the behest of insular and exclusive policy-makers in far-off imperial capitals,” he writes. The notion could hardly be more true with those subjects of the British Empire in Australia and New Zealand brought into the war “from the uttermost ends of the Earth.” As Sheppard points out, these subjects of the Ottoman and British empires fought against those “whom they may only have had the haziest idea even existed.”

Sheppard begins the book by discussing the military demands of the men in these empires, as well as the political fallout in what was known as “The Sick Man of Europe” (that is, the Ottoman Empire). The empire of the Middle East had experienced a revolution of sorts and the rise of the Committee of Union and Progress (famously known as the “Young Turks”) demanded changes be made in order to catch up with the other leading nations and empires. One of those changes was within the military. Sheppard identifies the five-year agreement made with the German Empire in 1913 to modernize the army.

Only months before the start of hostilities in July of 1914, the Ottomans instituted the Army Act of 1914 with enlistment requirements of 17 to 25 years. In Australia, on the other hand, men aged 18 to 25 were required to serve in the militia annually for 16 days. In New Zealand, the Defense Act of 1909 required men aged 18–25 to be trained militarily and to serve five years in the reserves. Comparatively, the author notes that the Ottomans had much more military experience than the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC), having fought more recently in a war (the Balkan Wars of 1912 to 1913 compared to the Second Anglo-Boer War of 1899 to 1902).

Sheppard presents three battles between the Ottomans and the ANZACs (although the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, which was part of the British Empire, is also mentioned): Lone Pine and Chunuk Bair in August of 1915, and Beersheba on Oct. 31, 1917.

The book provides visuals regarding the soldiers’ weapons and gear. There is also information about the terrain and the weather, and how access to water could dictate whether a mission could be pursued―specifically in the Sinai where desert winds could push the thermometer to an unbearable 130 degrees.

Sheppard pays close attention to the details of each battle. The retellings are intriguing and could hardly be more exhilarating than with the finale of the Battle of Beersheba and the ANZAC’s cavalry charge (specifically the 4th and 12th Australian Light Horse brigades). The author describes how the ANZAC continued to learn from past mistakes and how the Ottomans fought better than what they are often given credit for.

The casualty numbers of World War I are catastrophic, and it is the numbers along the European fronts that typically (and for good reason) take precedence. Sheppard makes clear, however, that the numbers in the Gallipoli and Palestine campaigns should not be undermined. The casualty rates from these battles are no less catastrophic. As Sheppard notes, “Given the negligible amount of ground gained or conceded, the toll of dead, wounded, or otherwise lost was horrific.”

Toward the end, the reader is introduced to Gen. Edmund Allenby, whose fame accelerated when he walked into Jerusalem in December of 1917. He was ushered into the campaign to replace Gen. Archibald Murray after the disastrous battles in Gaza.

Sheppard’s breakdown of the soldiers, the commanders, and the battles is a wonderful piece of work. As always, Osprey Publishing does a tremendous job visually explaining the details of the battles through maps and graphics. The results from this cultural collision in the Middle East cannot be overstated. It led to the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the formation of the Republic of Turkey, the British occupation  in Jerusalem until 1948, and, in general, setting the  geopolitical landscape of the Middle East almost completely as we know it today.

Sheppard’s “ANZAC Soldier Versus Ottoman Soldier: Gallipoli and Palestine 1915-18” is a worthy addition to any collection on the World War I campaigns of the Middle East.

Sheppard pays close attention to the details of each battle in “ANZAC Soldier Versus Ottoman Soldier: Gallipoli and Palestine 1915-16” (Osprey Publishing)

‘ANZAC Soldier Versus Ottoman Soldier: Gallipoli and Palestine 1915-18’
By Si Sheppard
Osprey Publishing, Feb. 28, 2023
Paperback: 80 pages