Thousands of Australians and new zealanders participated in commemorative ceremonies early Wednesday morning at a dawn service at ANZAC Cove on the Gallipoli (Gelibolu) Peninsula.
The grandchildren of those who fell at Arıburnu in Çanakkale 97 years ago gathered at Gallipoli for the event. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard was in attendance. Other officials included New Zealand politician Nathan Guy, Australian and New Zealander servicemen and Çanakkale Governor Güngör Azim Tuna at the event.
Gillard addressed the crowd, who waited in sleeping bags for the ceremony to begin.
“A place where foes met in equality and respect and attained a certain nobility through their character and conduct,” Gillard said at a service held at Anzac Cove, named after the Australian and New Zealand army Corps (ANZAC).
“The Turkish honored our fallen and embraced them as their own sons. … No nation could have better guarded our shrines or more generously welcomed our pilgrims,” Gillard said.
Australian Peter Robb, whose grandfather William Henry Rath was in Galipoli in 1915, is 68 years old. His grandfather, who often praised the Turkish nation, saying, “They were good people,” died in 1954. Robb has been visiting Gallipoli on Anzac Day for the past 10 years. “Australians and Turks became brothers in Çanakkale,” he says. He spent three months in Turkey visiting different cities this year ahead of Anzac Day. “I have been to many cities, including İstanbul, Bursa and İzmir. I have made a lot of Turkish friends. They are all very special people for me.” He says no animosity remains between Turks and Australians or New Zealanders.
There was also a ceremony for the Turkish units that fought at Çanakkale. A troop of young scouts reenacted the events of 97 years ago, marching along the path that the soldiers of the 57th Infantry Regiment of the Turkish army had tread. During the ceremony, the participants were given wheat soup, the last meal given to the 57th Regiment, who all fell during the battle. Çanakkale Governor Tuna and 1st Army Commander Gen. Yalçın Ataman also participated in the ceremony.
The Çanakkale Campaign, also known as the Gallipoli Campaign, took place on Gallıpoli Peninsula from April 1915 to January 1916 during World War I. A joint British and French operation was mounted to capture the Ottoman capital of İstanbul and secure a sea route to Russia. The ANZACs formed the backbone of a 200,000-man, British-led army that landed at Gallipoli.
The attempt failed, with heavy casualties on both sides, but it resonated profoundly among all nations involved. Nearly 1 million soldiers fought in trench warfare at Gallipoli. The allies recorded 55,000 killed in the fighting with 10,000 missing and 21,000 dead from disease. Turkish casualties were estimated at around 250,000.
The campaign was the first major battle undertaken by the ANZAC troops and is often considered to mark the birth of national consciousness in both Australia and New Zealand. Anzac Day, April 25, remains the most significant commemoration of military casualties in these countries. Each year, thousands of people, many of them Australians and New Zealanders, travel to the battlefields in northwestern Turkey on April 25, the start of the military campaign.
The battle is considered a defining moment in the history of the Turkish people. The struggle laid the ground for the Turkish War of Independence and the foundation of the Republic of Turkey eight years later under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, himself a commander at Gallipoli.
Originally published on 25th April 2013 on Today’s Zaman