For many of us Aussies a pilgrimage to Gelibolu or Gallipoli is a must do in our lifetime. The area is steeped in history, an ancient history, a pained history and a history of heroism by the boys and men who left home yearning for adventure, ready to fight for their King and country only to lose their lives and lay buried far from home.
Daughter and I travelled to the Gallipoli peninsular a few years back and had the good fortune of being shown the area by a Turkish author whose books explored the history in a Turkish light. Slightly different to the stories that I had grown up with but the one thing that stood out to me was the number of young men who died on both sides. Australia lost over 8000 men at Gallipoli however there were over 18,000 Australian casualties in all. Turkey, on the other hand, were fighting beside Russia and sent a huge contingent to protect the peninsular from the British Empire. Over 57,000 Turkish men were killed with over 100,000 casualties. These are some pretty daunting numbers in anyone’s books.
Visiting Gelibolu and the surrounding areas of ANZAC Cove, Lone Pine, The Nek (chilling) and all too many cemeteries was one of the most spiritual experiences of my life. There are no words to explain my emotions sitting on the beach and looking up at those ominous cliffs. The enormity of what these boys were sent to do is astounding and although the campaign failed in its objective of knocking the Ottoman Empire out of the war the actions of our brave soldiers gave us the Anzac legacy that we are so proud of today.
“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives…
You are now living 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.”
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, 1934
I can see why the people in Turkey give such high esteem to this man amongst men – I cannot imagine the British Prime Minister or even our own Australian Prime Minister ever being so gracious.
There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets.
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