Friday, May 5, 2017

"Heroes of Gallipoli" (Australia,1915)

The only known contemporary film of the Dardanelles Expedition, Heroes of Gallipoli was shot in the summer of 1915 with an Aeroscope camera by British war correspondent Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett and photographer Ernest Brooks. It features intertitles by Australian war historian C. E. W. Bean. The historical film has been digitally restored by Peter Jackson, director of Lord of the Rings.

Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett, British war reporter and cinematographer of Heroes of Gallipoli (1915)

Only 20 minutes of footage has survived, about one-fifth of the original 3000m of film, due to the unstable nature of early nitrate film stock. Because of its unique historical value the film has been listed on the Unesco Australian Memory of the World program, one of 60 similar programs around the world.

A remarkable achievement in film making under difficult battlefield conditions, the movie was made at Imbros Island, ANZAC Cove, Cape Helles and Suvla Bay. It features Australian, New Zealand and British troops in military operations, as well as Turkish prisoners of war and excellent footage of the terrain. The film also shows soldiers in action in frontline trenches using periscope rifles—an Australian innovation—and remarkable scenes of a firefight and Turkish shells exploding in the enemy's positions.

Cinematographer Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett (1881–1931) was the eldest son of Sir Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett who was Lord of the Admiralty. Sir Ellis’ interests took him to various theaters of war. At the age of 16 Ellis jr. accompanied his father with the Turkish army in the war against Greece and he served as a subaltern in the Boer War. He was a special war correspondent in the Russo-Japanese war, with the French campaign in Morocco and with the Italian army in Tripoli. In 1912 he was at the Turkish Headquarters during the First Balkan War.

Disaster at Gallipoli

In 1915, Ashmead-Bartlett was eager to join the ill-fated Dardanelles campaign, also known as the Battle of Gallipoli, the unsuccessful attempt by the Entente Powers to control the sea route to Russia during World War I. The campaign began with a failed naval attack by British and French ships on the Dardanelles Straits and continued with a major land invasion of the Gallipoli Peninsula on April 25, 1915, involving British and French troops as well as divisions of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. Lack of sufficient intelligence and knowledge of the terrain, along with a fierce Turkish resistance, hampered the initial success of the invasion. Gallipoli turned into a military disaster that led to the death of 45.000 Entente soldiers.

C.E.W. Bean and Ashmead-Bartlett in Gallipoli

Reporting from the Front

While Ashmead-Bartlett was in London, he paid a visit to his literary agent who suggested that he should take a movie camera with him for his return visit to Gallipoli. He started taking lessons before he left Britain and used the Aeroscope camera at Anzac Cove, Cape Helles and Suvla Bay, but it wasn't until he ran into war photographer Ernest Brooks on August 4, 1915, that he realized he had been operating it incorrectly. Brooks took over as camera operator after Ashmead-Bartlett survived a scare at Suvla.

Here is Ashmead-Bartlett's own story on this incident, as quoted by Brian Best in his book Reporting from the Front:

The original footage of Heroes of Gallipoli has been uploaded on our YouTube channel, as well as scenes from the restored version by film director Peter Jackson.


1 comment:

  1. The Gallipoli Campaign was Winston Churchill's brainchild. It was a bold maneuver to end WWI but it required almost split second timing between the armies and navies involved. The British leadership approved the plan but when the campaign tragically failed due to the lack of coordination between the land forces and the ships,the entire blame fell on Churchill. He resigned as First Lord of the Admiralty and went to the front to join the actual fighting. In disgrace he may have hoped for a quick death, which he almost received. Later, a Board of Inquiry exonerated Churchill and he resumed his political career but the failure of Gallipoli would haunt him for the rest of his life.