Liman von Sanders (1855–1929)
The Gallipoli map collection
Otto Liman von Sanders was born on 17 February 1855 in Stolp, Pomerania. He joined the army in 1874, and rose to the rank of general. In December 1913 he was posted to Turkey to oversee the reorganisation of the army of the Ottoman Empire, after it suffered major defeats in the Balkan Wars of 1912.
Prior to the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914 von Sanders worked to improve the Ottoman Turkish army’s fighting capabilities. The Ottoman Empire entered the war on the side of Germany on 29 October 1914. After the failed British naval assaults on the Dardanelles defences in February and March 1915, the Ottoman headquarters anticipated an Anglo-French landing. The Ottoman Turks created the Fifth Army, for the defence of the Dardanelles, on 25 March 1915 and von Sanders was given command.
At 5 am on Sunday 25 April, von Sanders woke to the news that an allied force, comprising British, Australians, New Zealanders and French, had landed at Anzac Cove, Cape Helles, and Kum Kale. The Ottoman Turks on the Gallipoli peninsula stopped the allied advance, but did not succeed in driving them back into the sea. The lines settled into trench warfare. A renewed allied offensive in early August also failed.
Towards the end of November, the Fifth Army began to work on a plan to attack on both the Anzac front and the adjoining right wing at Suvla. In December, however, before the attack could occur, the allies left Anzac and Suvla. Cape Helles was evacuated in January 1916.
After the victory at Gallipoli, on 19 February 1916 von Sanders returned to Istanbul in his position as chief of the military mission to Turkey. In 1918 he took command of a combined Turkish–German force in Palestine. On 20 September 1918, during the advance of the British forces, he narrowly avoided capture at Nazareth.
After the Armistice von Sanders oversaw the repatriation of German troops who had served in the Middle East. The British arrested him in February 1919 on suspicion of war crimes, but he was released six months later. He retired from the army and died at Munich on 22 August 1929 at the age of 74.