"When the sun rose on 24th April we saw a float almost immediately opposite Gaba Tepe. We realised that the float had been intentionally dropped by the English. We asked permission from our section commander to move it, for the Gaba Tepe sector was opposite the float, which was the most suitable place on the peninsula for a landing, and was the nearest point to the ridges overlooking the Strait. Three or four of our good swimmers pulled the float out of the sea and, loading it on to a mule, took it to a far less suitable point about a mile to the north and replaced it in the sea. The English, who had not discovered our trick, landed the following day at Ari Burnu instead of Gaba Tepe”
– Unknown Turkish Veteran, Watsons Pier by Joshua Funder (2015)

Lieutenant Colonel Stanley Holm Watson’s name and legacy is etched into the memory of the Royal Australian Corps of Engineers and the Royal Australian Corps of Signals. In addition to being one of the pioneering engineers to develop the discipline of Signals and oversee the construction of a pier at Gallipoli, he is also credited with being one of the last men off the beach during the evacuation in December 1915. A railway engineer and eventually Deputy Commissioner of South Australian Railways, Watson offers unique insights as an integral part of the landing into the events and actions that are insightful for us as soldiers in the modern era.

In April of 1977, Watson returned to Gallipoli with support from Andrew Michaelson, one of the Consular Attaches in Turkey, touring the area as part of one final visit. During their travels, the two were engaged by the innkeeper of where they were staying as well as the innkeeper's father, a veteran of the Gallipoli campaign, and others in an unknown village on the peninsula.

Whilst there was a language barrier, Michaelson was handed a diary at some point and had translated the above passage. The landing at Gallipoli is known to have been on the wrong beach, as has been documented in multiple accounts. Even on the Australian Parliament’s 2017 recount of events it states that “The Anzac forces landed about a mile north of the loosely planned landing site.”

The landing at the wrong site had a sizable strategic impact for the allies, namely:

  1. Murray Bridges and the planning staff knew the need to move fast and take multiple ridges.
  2. Landing right in front of the peninsula slowed down the Australians substantially, undermining the need for speed.
  3. The resultant delay gave General Otto von Sanders & General Mustafa Kemal Atatürk time to mobilise and counter the allied landings.

We have often been told a myriad of reasons for why the landing was at the wrong location, whether it be tides, the Royal Navy, issues with rowing in darkness – but could it be that an incorrect waypoint marker threw off the allied landings?

The greater deception of incompetence

Admiral Sir Cecil Fiennes Thursby and the Royal Navy are often blamed with landing the Australians in the wrong location; however, it is apparent from this account that neither are entirely to blame. Should they have anticipated manipulation of a landing marker? I do not believe that, in a time of structure and mechanisation of war that deception and adversarial action were as fully understood, but I do believe that the dismissiveness, blame games, and the election not to learn that has played out in the past 108 years has been far more dangerous.

To date, the Australian Parliament House account in 2017 even states that “The reason is unclear and has been much debated over the years. Most likely, the naval ratings taking the troops ashore were disorientated and simply veered left.” 45 years on from Michaelson and Watson’s jaunt and ongoing – albeit esoteric – publications, history has not yet been rewritten.

To the contrary, incompetence and blaming the British has now become fashionable; failing to study history and search for truth to such depth undermines greater learning that can be derived from such events.

The greater lessons

This is also very much the story of the value of soldiers thinking strategically and acting accordingly. The local Turkish soldiers, likely recruited from fishermen, intuitively knew the intent of the placed markers and on their own initiative, were effective at forcing the allies to make a landing that didn’t work in their favour and create the ensuing landings at the wrong site.

Delay was defeat for the Allies and the Gallipoli Campaign. Churchill in his account of the first World War highlights that had the push through the Dardanelles occurred in March, there wouldn’t have been the need for invasion. Had the April invasion been executed with speed, there wouldn't have been the need for the August offensive, and had the offensive in August of 1915 on the peninsula moved with speed and skill, a withdrawal in December would not have taken place. These actions can all be drawn down to ambiguity, obscurity, and ultimately a failure to create systems that could be trusted.

This is also an opportunity for learning and growth in the modern era. Within my own discipline of cybersecurity, injection flaws and improper validation of untrusted inputs are key risks to our systems. Malformed waypoints, inaccurate data ingested by our systems, as well as misinformation are reasonably well understood by our technical practitioners; however, tactical actions and strategic implications often fail to correlate at higher levels. I only hope this brief insight on events core to the Australian experience of war can enlighten and aid our leaders.


Funder, J. (2015). Watson's Pier. Melbourne University Publishing.

Watt, D. (2017, March 31). Gallipoli: a quick guide to frequently asked questions and general information – Parliament of Australia. Aph.gov.au