Today (in Australia and New Zealand, and tomorrow in the US and Europe) is the 100th anniversary of the ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corp) landing at Gallipoli in 1915 with the goal of capturing Constantinople from the Ottoman Empire. The Gallipoli campaign proved to be as bloody as any in the Great War with forces from Australia and New Zealand losing over 10,000 men. More than that, however, the troops from Australia and New Zealand brought to their respective homelands a sense of national pride as the “Knights of Gallipoli” won widespread admiration. British journalist Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett famously remarked:
“There has been no finer feat in this war than this sudden landing in the dark and storming the heights, and, above all, holding on while the reinforcements were landing. These raw colonial troops, in these desperate hours, proved worthy to fight side by side with the heroes of Mons, the Aisne, Ypres and Neuve Chapelle.”
Reports like this reached Australia and New Zealand by the end of April (here’s a editorial printed in the Sydney Morning Herald from April 30, 1915) and from 1916, April 25th was commemorated in Australia and New Zealand as ANZAC day.
ANZAC Day 1922, Manly, Queensland (via The Wikipedias)
The Gallipoli Campaign was significant for Turkey as well with Mustafa Kemal led the resistance to the allied landing. Kemal emerged from the War as Atatürk, the leader of the new Turkish nation. Recognizing the significance of the Gallipoli campaign for Turkish, Australians, and New Zealanders alike, he commemorated the soldiers who died there in a speech in 1934:
“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 to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours … You, the mothers who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”
My Australian wife and I usually listen to one of various versions of Eric Bogle’s insanely depressing “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda” which must rank among the most powerful anti-war songs of the Vietnam Era. I prefer the Pogues version:
“The young people ask what are they marching for, and I ask myself the same question”