‘Even on a smiling spring day, the place seems haunted and, in a way that is hard to explain, corrupted. If one believed in the devil, it would also be possible to believe that he lived in Gully Ravine.’L.A Carlyon. ‘Gallipoli’. Bantam Books, 2001.
Gully Ravine is an ancient four 4 km long water course on the north side of the Gallipoli Peninsula in Western Turkey. It lies in the Helles sector of Gallipoli, where the British were the predominant allied force present in 1915.
In the early stages of WWI, it was the scene of fierce trench warfare and of huge losses on the part of both the allied and the Ottoman - Turkish forces.
The Landings at Helles, Anzac and Kum Kale in the Dardanelles were ordered when the planned naval push through the straits to Constantinople (modern Istanbul) in February and March 1915, which was intended to relieve the blockade against the Russian allies and open a second front, was thwarted by shore-based fire and mines. It was agreed to land men to repulse the Turkish defences, and this initial step led to an eight month campaign from late April 1915 to early January 1916, when the Allied troops were evacuated. Official figures suggest that almost one million Allied and Turkish soldiers were mobilised during the campaign, and that both sides suffered casualties (killed, wounded or missing) of some 250,000 each.
Gully Ravine, known to the defending Turkish forces as Zighin Dere, runs in a south westward direction down to the sea from the foothills of Achi Baba, a modest hill which, very optimistically, was the objective of the allied forces for 26th April 1915, the day after the landings at the beaches on the western end of the peninsula. Achi Baba was never taken by the allies. There are a number of water courses that run westward towards the sea in this way, but most are just a few metres deep. Thousands of years of erosion have made Gully Ravine up to 30 metres deep in places.
Allied attacks on the spurs to the west and east of the ravine and the resulting trench systems made the gully an essential access route for the front lines, and also itself the scene of direct and bitter fighting. The final allied front line prior to evacuation was approximately 2/3 of the way up the ravine. Another feature that made Gully Ravine such a focus of activity is that it is far more than simply a sunken stream bed. Smaller gullies and openings run off it on either side, and these were quickly pressed into use as dressing stations, supply dumps, dormitories, practice firing ranges and stables etc.
From the first occasion that I heard of Gully Ravine, I have been drawn to its history and place in the Gallipoli campaign. The gully is a microcosm of all that trench warfare was - both in terms of the fighting and death, the stalemate of attack and retreat, and also the building - in truly awful circumstances, of a 'home from home'. It is also a relatively unknown part of the Gallipoli campaign. Thousands visit the Anzac area and many hundreds the main British landing beaches, but the deeper parts of Gully Ravine lie untouched and unfrequented, except by a few with specialist - or personal - interest.
I first visited the Gallipoli peninsula in 2002, but only realised my ambition of walking through Gully Ravine and exploring the associated spurs in late 2007. This modest site attempts to record my ongoing experiences of this remarkable and hauntingly tragic location. It is a truly strange and unusual place to visit.
I have two, albeit distant relatives listed on the Helles memorial, and based on their regiments and the dates they fell, it appears that they were involved in the fighting in and around the ravine. One fell on 28th June 1915 at the height of the Battle of Gully Ravine in the area of the Boomerang, and the other in August, having just left the firing line on Gully Spur. Research continues.
If you have visited the ravine and would like to contribute to this site, then do please email me.
I am missing Gallipoli and I am looking forward to a further visit, probably in May 2016 when I could be leading a battlefield tour there.
I last visited the Gallipoli battlefields in September 2015. Updates have been made to many pages, including the practical section on travel and accommodation. There are also a few HQ video clips.
As I have experienced on previous occasions, Gully Ravine is constantly changing. It was far more overgrown than I have seen it before, and water erosion continues slowly to remove the evidence of its 1915 occupation. I spent a lot of time exploring the deeply wooded areas of the spurs and have visited a number of key places that appear on contemporary maps.