On 18 March 1915, a powerful naval force of British and French ships failed spectacularly in an attempt to force its way through the Dardanelles and threaten the Turkish capital, Constantinople (Istanbul). A decision was therefore taken to supress the Dardanelles defences by landing soldiers on the Gallipoli peninsula before making another attempt.

The naval forces supporting this campaign included HMS Manica, a tramp steamer which had been rapidly converted and equipped with a 'kite balloon' to provide aerial observation for naval gunfire. One of the crew was a 46-year-old naval reservist, Able Seaman Herbert William Hillier, in civilian life an architect and artist. Hillier’s naval career was brief - by early August he had returned to London, and is recorded as resigning in September 1915 - but he produced over 160 sketches of the scenes he witnessed during the period from April to the end of July. These were purchased by IWM in 1926, apart from one sheet that was presented in memory of his two brothers who had been killed in 1918. Two large paintings were also purchased.

The sketches, mainly pencil drawings, are predominantly eyewitness records produced at the time of the events portrayed. He was apparently able to do this even during actions when his sentry duties allowed. The sketches were produced on small sheets of paper about the size of a hand. Many have annotations about the events, both on the drawings and on mounts to which many were later glued, as well as comments about light and colour that were presumably intended to inform any subsequent paintings. Hillier also provided extensive additional typewritten notes to accompany the presentation.

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HMS Manica, the Royal Navy’s first balloon ship

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HMS Manica, the Royal Navy’s first balloon ship

HMS Manica was a 4,000-tonne tramp steamer that had been launched in 1900.

image: a view of the kite balloon ship HMS Manica, shown port side on, in Kephalos Bay off the island of Imbros. The ship's yellow balloon is partly inflated on the foredeck. To the right the sterns of two ships are visible, with coastline in the background.
HMS Manica, Balloon Ship, in Kephalos Bay, Imbros, 1915, by Herbert Hillier. © IWM (Art.IWM ART 4394)

Hired by the Admiralty on 11 March 1915, the ship was converted into the Navy’s first specialised balloon ship. The main alteration was to construct a long, sloping wooden deck from forecastle to waist. A hydrogen compressor was installed to inflate the balloon, while anti-aircraft armamentand additional accommodation completed the work. The balloon allowed observers to play an important reconnaissance role, spotting targets and assisting the naval gunners on the other warships with accurate ranging on targets. The ship was consequently present for most of the significant military and naval operations at Gallipoli until returning to Britain in mid-August. It was irreverently known as 'HMS Maniac' and '…home of the balloonatics…'

Hillier produced numerous images of the ship. Some show the balloon ship spotting for the ships providing fire support, but many show aspects of shipboard life ranging from the balloon deck to the mess deck, the miserable task of coaling, the crew off duty and even the cat mascot, 'Mowler'.

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Imbros and Lemnos

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Imbros and Lemnos

The Gallipoli campaign was undertaken far from Britain and France. Major support facilities were therefore established on the nearby islands of Lemnos, Imbros and Tenedos. Hillier produced numerous sketches of Mudros Bay on Lemnos, which accommodated many naval ships, transports and hospital ships in the huge deep water anchorage. The surrounding hillsides were soon covered with encampments, hospitals and masses of other infrastructure. Imbros also played an important role. 

a Greek flour mill stands on a cliff in the right foreground overlooking a large naval fleet that has assembled in Mudros Bay. The fleet is made up of ocean liners used as transport ships, hospital ships and warships. Further along the shoreline in the left foreground is a military camp, with numerous bell tents grouped either side of another flour mill. There are also military personnel and small boats on the beach.
The Fleet at Mudros, 1915, by Herbert Hillier. © IWM (Art.IWM ART 2451)

The headquarters of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force was located on the island for much of the campaign, together with an airfield, hospitals, camps and stores. HMS Manica frequently operated from Kephalos Bay on Imbros, and consequently Hillier produced numerous sketches of shipping and activity in the harbour. Hillier apparently did not visit Tenedos.

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Preparations for the landings

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Preparations for the landings

During the fortnight prior to the Gallipoli landings, Hillier recorded some of the preparations, including the armada of British and French warships and transports that converged on Mudros Bay on the island of Lemnos. He also went ashore and noted the diversity of the forces, including the Australian and Algerian camps.

a Greek flour mill stands on a cliff in the right foreground overlooking a large naval fleet that has assembled in Mudros Bay. The fleet is made up of ocean liners used as transport ships, hospital ships and warships. Further along the shoreline in the left foreground is a military camp, with numerous bell tents grouped either side of another flour mill. There are also military personnel and small boats on the beach.
'Action Stations' Again, off Gallipoli, April 24th 1915, by Herbert Hillier.  © IWM (Art.IWM ART 1465)

HMS Manica started reconnaissance work, and by 21 April he noted that having '…seen practically the whole of the coast on the Aegean side of the Gallipoli Peninsula, we cannot - in spite of the innumerable "buzzes" [rumours ] going around - … imagine whereabouts the troops can possibly land there if there is opposition…' After spotting for the warships undertaking preparatory shelling on 24 April, Hillier noted that HMS Manica '…beat about in the "Aegean" until keeping our rendezvous, place and time, when all is truly in the melting pot. A calm sea and a beautiful evening. Moon only about half full but too bright for our liking, while it lasted. Then dark enough. In the night the troops from Tenedos are on their way here, and the A & N.Z. Corps from Mudros…'

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Dawn at Anzac

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Dawn at Anzac

Dawn on 25 April 1915, described by Hillier as '…the most glorious sunrise I have ever seen…’, found HMS Manica with the naval force supporting the landing of ANZAC troops on the peninsula. The kite balloon was in the air from 5.21am for almost 9 hours, reporting on progress ashore. Hillier completed six sketches off Anzac Cove during the morning. 

A view of Royal Navy warships and transport ships manouvering along the coast of the Dardanelles during the initial landing at Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915. In the foreground there is a Royal Navy destroyer sailing in front of the Royal Navy battleship HMS Queen Elizabeth. The kite balloon of the fire control ship HMS Manica is visible in the sky above. There are three further warships further back and several transport ships, as well as other vessels. The sky is illuminated by the bright glow of the sun ris
The Dawn Of Anzac Day, Sunday 25th April 1915, by Herbert Hillier. © IWM (Art.IWM ART 1920)

Even from the ship, he could gain a sense of the situation. '…Ever since the darkness began to thin out a little, the stuttering rattle, and the roll of rifle fire, more and more punctuated with enemy shrapnel-bursts show us clearly enough where the killing is going on along that beach and mountain-side still holding its misty veil. Well, - here’s the sun, and now we shall see - what we shall see…'

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Holding on at Anzac Cove

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Holding on at Anzac Cove

Hillier’s sketches during the afternoon and evening show more transports arriving and the role of HMS Manica spotting for HMS Baccante, HMS Triumph and HMS Talbot as they tried to locate and destroy opposing artillery around Gaba Tepe. 

a view of Anzac Cove on the western side of the Gallipoli peninsula during the first days of the Allied landings. Various warships and transport ships are visible by the coastline, with a small boat in the immediate foreground. The high ground of Sari Bair is visible in the background.
Dawn, April 26th 1915, by Herbert Hillier. © IWM (Art.IWM ART 4280)

As night fell he recorded, '… there is an unceasing roll of rifle and machine gun fire ashore, and everyone knows that our losses have been very heavy. The fighting area that we are watching from the ship is flickering all over with the sharp splashes of rifle fire, much of it apparently at hand to hand distances. We can do no more on our job until the dawn lets us on again…' As the sun rose the next day, Hillier was reassured that '…the boys are holding on! after the most critical sort of night…' while he sketched what he described as the '…rather terrible debris washing about here and there - helmets, shell carrying cases, odds and ends - anything that will float…' including an abandoned lifeboat from the initial landings.

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The First Battle of Krithia

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The First Battle of Krithia

While the Australians and New Zealanders came ashore at Anzac Cove, the main British and French forces landed at several points around the southern end of the peninsula. 

a heavily annotated sketch showing several Royal Navy warships in action bombarding Turkish positions on the coast of Gallipoli. There is a small vessel in the right foreground, with a spaced out line of ships dotted alongside the coast. Some hills are visible to the left.
The Big Push for Krithia and Achi-Baba, 12.50pm, April 28th 1915, by Herbert Hillier.  © IWM (Art.IWM ART 4286)

They also made limited progress inland, and on Wednesday 28 April an offensive was launched to push the front further up the peninsula. The aim was to capture the village of Krithia and a prominent hill - Achi Baba - which gave the Turkish forces a panoramic view across the Allied positions to the south. HMS Manica was spotting for ships supporting the attack. Initially the infantry met with some success, but as the troops encountered ground that was increasingly broken by ravines, as well as pockets of effective Turkish resistance, the advance bogged down. Turkish counter-attacks started to push the British forces back, and HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Swiftsure had to intervene, '…firing fast and furious…' to stem a determined bayonet charge against the British left flank. HMS Manica itself '…received rather close and personal attention from the enemy batteries…', but steamed closer inshore later in the afternoon to engage directly - but rather ineffectually - with its own 12-pounder gun.

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The Second Battle of Krithia

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The Second Battle of Krithia

Major-General Aylmer Hunter-Weston, commanding the British 29th Division at Helles, decided to renew the stalled offensive towards Achi Baba on 6 May, and a series of attacks were launched over the next three days with the support of naval gunfire. 

an annotated sketch showing HMS Queen Elizabeth, port side on, bombarding Turkish positions on the Gallipoli coastline. Clouds of smoke on the cliffs show where her artillery fire is falling. Another smaller ship is visible to the right.
Spotting for Queen Elizabeth, 1st Battle for Krithia, 6.15pm, May 7th 1915, by Herbert Hillier.  © IWM (Art.IWM ART 4309)

An increasingly familiar story was repeated of rather ineffective bombardments, orders arriving late, Turkish positions inadequately located and the advance soon bogging down in the face of intense shrapnel and machine gun fire. By the afternoon of 8 May, it was clear that the attempt had failed comprehensively, but one final attempt was made using some troops who still remained in reserve. The Australian 2nd Brigade suffered over 1,000 casualties, many before they even reached the British front line, and although they advanced 1 km in the open under heavy fire, they never even reached the Turkish lines. Under cover of darkness that night, reinforcements occupied the ground that could not be taken during the day almost without loss. Ironically, a night attack had been proposed initially, rather than three days of daylight attacks, but had been rejected by General Hunter-Weston.

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Shelling Turkish supply lines

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Shelling Turkish supply lines

The Turkish capital, Constantinople, was only 300 km from Gallipoli, but there were great difficulties in providing reliable supply lines to the Turkish forces. 

an annotated sketch showing the bow of HMS Manica in the immediate foreground, her attached kite balloon floating high in the sky. To the right HMS Lord Nelson is bombarding Turkish positions at Gallipoli, surrounded by five Royal Navy destroyers. On the coastline to the left, smoke is emanating from the heavily bombarded Chanak.
Spotting for Lord Nelson, Firing Across the Peninsula at Chanak Forts, June 25th 1915, by Herbert Hillier.  © IWM (Art.IWM ART 4361)

The closest railway to the peninsula was still 150 km distant and roads were poor, so the Turks initially relied on shipping for transporting men and supplies across the Sea of Marmara to the Dardanelles. Although the ships and port facilities were invisible from the British ships on the opposite side of the peninsula, the observers in the kite balloon from HMS Manica could see them clearly and they targeted the heavy naval guns accurately. A German eyewitness described the result: '…at half-past four we reached the burning town of Maidos, whose inhabitants we could see crawling along the coast, in miserable plight with what few articles they had been able to save from the fire. A perfect picture of misery…'

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The final push for Achi Baba

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The final push for Achi Baba

Hillier recorded nothing of the Third Battle of Krithia - another ultimately futile attempt to grasp Achi Baba - apart from Turkish prisoners of war taken to Imbros. However, this costly failure finally led to a change of tactics.

an annotated sketch of a Royal Navy bombardment on Turkish positions near Achi Baba on the Gallipoli peninsula. Part of HMS Manica is shown in the right foreground, her kite balloon floating in the sky above. On the far left is the stern end of HMS Talbot, with two destroyers nearby. The coastline is dotted with clouds of smoke from artillery fire, and there are splashes in the water from Turkish shells fired in retaliation.
Spotting for Talbot, Attack on Achi Baba via Krithia, 11.45am, June 27th 1915, by Herbert Hillier.  © IWM (Art.IWM ART 4366)

A series of much more localised operations were planned, supported by a far greater concentration of artillery fire. On 28 June, HMS Manica was in position, spotting for HMS Talbot, as an intensive British barrage and retaliatory Turkish fire engulfed Gully Spur and Fir Tree Spur on the left of the British line. At 10.45am, Hillier recorded the shelling as the 1st Border Regiment went over the top and swept into the formidable Boomerang Redoubt. An hour later, he drew this sketch as the left flank of the 29th Division advanced along the cliff tops of Gully Spur and overran several Turkish trench lines. This was the most successful part of the attack, as the 29th Indian Brigade captured Fusilier Bluff, the furthest point reached during the entire campaign. The Allies had given up any real hope of capturing Achi Baba, and the fighting through to mid-July did little but deplete the available Allied forces.

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U-Boat attacks

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U-Boat attacks

Having failed to force the Dardanelles in March, the Royal Navy's role changed to being the essential support for all land operations on the peninsula. The armada of naval and supply ships provided both fire support and the sole supply line. However, the ships were vulnerable to attack by submarines. Hillier records the increasing apprehension and precautionary actions as several submarines rushed from Germany into the Aegean. On 25 May, HMS Manicawas standing by to spot for HMS Triumph when the battleship was torpedoed by submarine U21. 

an annotated sketch of the sinking of HMS Triumph off the Gallipoli coast near Kaba Tepe. The sinking ship is just visible in the centre of the composition, with most of the ship already below the surface of the water. To the left, HMS Canopus and another vessel sail nearby, with smaller vessels to the right. The slopes of the coastline are visible in the background.
Sinking of the Triumph Near Kaba Tepe, May 25th 1915, by Herbert Hillier.  © IWM (Art.IWM ART 4344)

Hillier sketched the upturned hull of the ship, men in the water and other ships rushing to the rescue. Naval tactics changed drastically, as ships were withdrawn wherever possible to the protected anchorages of Kephalos Bay on Imbrosand Mudros harbour on Lemnos. Henceforth, ships ventured out only when essential for much more fleeting visits with supplies or to provide fire support.

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Allied submarine offensive

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Allied submarine offensive

Allied submarines had started to penetrate the Dardanelles well before the main Gallipoli campaign. 

an annotated sketch of Royal Navy submarine E14 sailing on the surface of the water into Kephalos Bay on the island of Imbros. The small figures of crew members can be seen on deck. Behind her the light cruiser HMS Chatham is moored before several transport ships. There is a study of the bow end of the submarine in the upper right corner and extensive handwritten notes in the lower half.
Our Submarine E14 Returning from a Most Daring Raid into the Sea of Marmara, July 3rd 1915, by Herbert Hillier.  © IWM (Art.IWM ART 4372)

In December 1914, a British submarine torpedoed an old Turkish battleship, while a French submarine was sunk in January. However, the main campaign started in April, and by the end of the year 13 British, Australian and French submarines had sunk seven naval ships including a battleship, 11 troop transports, 44 supply ships, and 148 sailing vessels. The cost was high, with eight Allied submarines lost, but the main supply route for the Turkish forces was seriously affected by the campaign. Hillier recorded several of the submarines. On the afternoon of 3 July he sketched E14 returning to Kephalos Bay. Some of the crew can be seen on deck, cheering, as they return safely. Commanded by Lieutenant-Commander Boyle, this submarine survived several passages through the straits to the Sea of Marmara and sank numerous vessels. Boyle had been awarded the Victoria Cross following his first, spectacularly successful voyage which started in late April.

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Naval aviation over Gallipoli

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Naval aviation over Gallipoli

The potential importance of aviation was recognised by the Allies as they prepared for the Dardanelles campaign, and the ships which converged on the Aegean included arguably the world’s first aircraft carrier, HMS Ark Royal

 an annotated sketch of HMS Ark Royal, shown starboard side on, with her supply ship immediately beyond her. In the foreground a seaplane lands on the surface of the water, with another in flight in the sky above.
HMS Ark Royal, Aircraft Carrier, May 22nd 1915, by Herbert Hillier.  © IWM (Art.IWM ART 4338)

From February onwards, British aircraft started flying over Turkish-held territory. This was primarily to carry out reconnaissance, but also increasingly to bomb Turkish targets, to assist in directing the fire from warships and to search for submarines. The effectiveness of the reconnaissance flights by seaplanes from HMS Ark Royal and land-based aircraft flying from nearby islands was limited by mechanical unreliability and primitive radio communications, particularly early in the campaign.

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Under aerial attack

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Under aerial attack

By contrast to the difficulties with aircraft reconnaissance, the kite balloon tethered above HMS Manica provided a steady platform for observation, with reliable communication. When first deployed on 19 April, the lethal combination of effective aerial spotting and naval gunfire was demonstrated graphically. 

an annotated sketch of HMS Manica and HMS Talbot at sea off the Gallipoli coast, with Turkish biplanes attempting a bombing raid on the former. HMS Manica's kite balloon is shown in the sky above, and a long arrow displays the direction the Turkish aircraft came from before flying away. Coastline is visible to the left and an island is in the background.
Enemy Bomb Plane, 6.45pm, April 30th 1915, by Herbert Hillier.  © IWM (Art.IWM ART 4297)

A heavy bombardment by HMS Bacchante suddenly engulfed an unsuspecting Turkish encampment which had hitherto been hidden from Allied view. However, Turkish and German aircraft also started attacking the Allied forces, and the number of their aircraft increased substantially by June. HMS Manica had been identified quickly by the Turks as a particular threat and was the target of bombing raids and artillery shelling. Hillier recorded several attacks including the first raid, on the evening of 30 April, when the ship was straddled by bombs dropped from an Aviatik but suffered no direct hits.

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Operations around Helles

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Operations around Helles

The main British landings on 25 April had been at 'V' and 'W' Beaches at the southern end of the peninsula. Once the front had been pushed some way inland, this shoreline continued to be important as the only feasible area for landing supplies in bulk and for providing the associated onshore facilities. A large fleet of vessels congregated around the area shuttling men and supplies to and from the shore and providing naval fire support. However, everything was visible to Turkish observation and their artillery often fired into this concentration of Allied forces. 

an annotated sketch of Royal Navy warships off Cape Helles. In the right foreground, battleship HMS Implacable sails towards land, with a French destroyer and HMS Majestic to the left. SS River Clyde, deliberately run aground on V Beach during the initial landings, is visible in the centre, with the Sedd-el-Bahr fort overlooking the beach. Clouds of smoke show where shells have fallen.
Helles Sector, 10am, May 18th 1915, by Herbert Hillier. © IWM (Art.IWM ART 4332)

HMS Manica visited the Helles area quite frequently, and Hillier recorded the mass of activity and the shell fire. He also went ashore and produced one watercolour of the River Clyde, which had been beached to assist the initial landings at V Beach.

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The build-up for the August offensives?

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The build-up for the August offensives?

Despite the lack of success at either Anzac Cove or Helles, large-scale reinforcements were sent to Gallipoli for renewed offensives in August. To accelerate their transfer, the British government chartered two of the biggest and fastest Cunard ocean liners to expand the fleet of troop transports. 

two large four-funnelled liners, the Aquitania and Mauretania, are in the centre, with other transport ships, battleships and cruisers on either side. The image is heavily annotated and is on a sheet of lined paper.
The Big Liners, Aquitania and Mauretania in Use as Transports, 4.15pm, July 18th 1915, by Herbert Hillier.  © IWM (Art.IWM ART 4390)

Powered by steam turbine engines and designed to sail at nearly 25 knots, Mauritania and Aquitania could carry 6,000 men each and complete the journey in a week. Their speed also gave some protection from lurking U-Boats, but the sinking of their sister ship Lusitania in May 1915 had shown that even they were still vulnerable. On 20 July, Hillier also sketched a new kind of boat and noted '…the new "Beetles" for landing troops on beach…much better than the boats used in the original landings…' More ominously, he also recorded the waiting hospital ships. The August offensives, despite their ferocity and fleeting moments of promise, simply prolonged the campaign and the losses without changing the fundamental reality: the Turks occupied the high ground and the Allies were no closer to breeching the Dardanelles or reaching Constantinople. Ultimately, the Allied soldiers who had not been killed left as they arrived - by sea.

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Postscript

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Postscript

Hillier was not the only Able Seaman on HMS Manica who was sketching scenes of the campaign. William W Collins was a rather more recognised artist and he also produced several drawings that are now held in the collection of the National Maritime Museum. They were also joined briefly in May by the noted artist Horace Moore-Jones, who produced a watercolour panorama of the Anzac Cove area and two other sketches of the coastline that are in the collection of the Australian War Memorial.

A view of the landings at Suvla Bay seen from a vessel at sea. There is a large troop-ship moored just off the coast in the left of the composition. Several boats filled with troops are leaving this and making their way across to the land at the right.
The Landing in Suvla Bay: Early morning, 7th August 1915, by Norman Wilkinson.  © IWM (Art.IWM ART 2451)

Hillier and Collins returned to London just before the August offensives, but another naval reservist arrived off the coast of Gallipoli in time to produce a substantial artistic record. Norman Wilkinson was a well-established artist in 1915, with a particular interest in maritime subjects. He produced numerous watercolour paintings and ink sketches, particularly relating to the Suvla landings in August. Later in 1915, he went on to produce a copiously illustrated book about his experiences, The Dardanelles: Colour sketches from Gallipoli. In 1919 he was commissioned by the Imperial War Museum to produce several oil paintings. Several other artists who produced works of Gallipoli and the Dardanelles campaign are also represented in the IWM collection. Another major collection of works of art relating to Gallipoli is held by the Australian War Memorial,  which focuses strongly, but not exclusively, on the events around Anzac Cove.

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