Anzac Day Special: Remembering Canakkale
March 18 is the day Turks celebrate as the anniversary of Gallipoli Naval Victory. In other words it’s Turkiye’s “Anzac Day”.
Canakkale is the birthplace of the ANZAC legend. In Turkey, the campaign is known as the Çanakkale Savaşları, named after the province of Çanakkale. In the United Kingdom, it is called the Dardanelles Campaign or Gallipoli. In France it is called Les Dardanelles.
Canakkale was the first time that Australian troops fought together as one, prior to this, Australian units had been sent to war on a colony by colony basis.
Being able to stop two very strong navy fleets (British and French) at Gallipoli also motivated the Turks in defeating the invading forces which consisted of the super powers of the era; British Empire, France, Russian Empire as well as regional threats Italy, Greece and their allies.
The event also introduced Mustafa Kemal Pasha as a new hero into Turkish society. The fame he gained in managing the Turkish side of the battle, Mustaha Kemal Pasha, who was later given the surname “Ataturk” (Father of Turks) by the Turkish Parliament, successfully lead and organized the war-tired and weary Turks around a common cause.
Therefore this sad event was not only a bitter story for the participating nations. But also indication of the emergence of two nations, Turks and Australians. Australia was a new sovereign state and this was the first battle they, Australians, fought. At the same time the Ottoman Empire, located in Anatolia was about to collapse and a new Turkish State, known as Turkey today, was about to emerge on this land.
The commander of the Ottoman Army on the battlefield who later became the first president of the Turkish Republic sent a very touching message for the Australian soldiers who lost their lives in Gallipoli : “Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives… you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets where they lie side by side here in this country of ours… You the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries, wipe away your tears. Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. Having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.. ” (1934). This wonderful message cemented long lasting friendship between Turks and Australians.
Mehmet Akif Ersoy, the author of Turkish National Anthem, described the Canakkale with the verses ”…Vurulup tertemiz alnından uzanmış yatıyor/Bir hilal uğruna, ya Rab, ne Güneşler batıyor/Ey bu topraklar için toprağa düşmüş, asker/Gökten ecdâd inerek öpse o pâk alnı değer/Ne büyüksün ki kanın kurtarıyor Tevhîd’i/Bedr’in aslanları ancak, bu kadar şanlı idi” (Translation: He, shot from his clean forehead, is laying down/ To save one crescent, Oh Lord, how many suns have set? / Oh, the soldier who has fallen for this land/ Your sacrifice is worth all your ancestors coming back from dead just to give you a kiss on the forehead/ You are so great that your blood saves the faith/The lions of Badr were just as glorious as you are.. )