A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, April 25, 2013

ANZAC Day 2013: 98 Years Since the Gallipoli Landings

Heroes who 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 Mehmets to us 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. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.
— Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, 1934.
The quote appears on the Atatürk Memorial in Turakena Bay, Gallipoli, and on the Kemal Atatürk Memorial, ANZAC Parade, Canberra, Australia.
ANZAC Cove During the Battle
April 25, 1915: British, French, Australian, and New Zealand troops landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey, in a daring if doomed effort to take Constantinople, drive the Ottoman Empire out of World War I, and shorten the war. It would be a major debacle for British arms, lose Winston Churchill his job as First Lord of the Admiralty, and haunt his career for decades. The original idea was to use a naval force to force the Dardanelles, and in fact the Turkish authorities, knowing they were not a naval match for the Royal Navy , made contingency plans to leave Constantinople. But when the British used obsolete vessels and encountered a minefield, they abandoned the naval aspect (which might have worked), and prepared a land campaign. Meanwhile, the Ottomans had plenty of forewarning.

But even though Gallipoli became a disaster in British military history, it helped give birth to three great modern nations. To this day ANZAC Day (today) is a holiday in Australia and New Zealand, and fills the place that November 11 (Remembrance Day/Veteran's Day) does elsewhere in the English-speaking world. The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) suffered enormous losses, fed into a meat grinder assault against a ridgeline, but both Australia and New Zealand emerged from it, and from the subsequent Chanak crisis, much more independent of their mother country, with modern identities of their own. In fact, as the quote above notes, they and the Turks get along well enough and they admire Atatürk's respect for their dead. In the eyes of many Australians today, the real villain of the piece was not the Turks, but Mother England. (Affectionately (?) known Down Under, of course, as "Pommy Bastards.")
Kemal at Gallipoli
A third country also was born of Gallipoli: the local Ottoman commander, moved to the peninsula before the landings, was a colonel named Mustafa Kemal, the future Atatürk. In some ways the emergence, from the Ottoman defeat, of the later Turkish Republic, is also a legacy of Gallipoli.

Although the Islamist, post-Kemalist Turkey of today is undergoing some historical revisionism about Kemal's real importance at Gallipoli, most Western military accounts still credit him for the success.

Kemal During the War
On ANZAC Day of 2011 I did as lengthy post about Gallipoli and Chanak, with some videos and details of when the last veterans of each force passed a way. If you missed it, I strongly recommend you read it now.

Yakup Satar
And I leave you once again with the face of the last Mehmetchik, the last Ottoman veteran of the Great War, Yakup Satar (1898-2008), who died five years ago this month shortly after his 110th birthday. He did not serve at Gallipoli, but in Mesopotamia, and became a prisoner of the British at Kut, but it's a wonderful face and a reminder of how recently the last veterans of the War to End Wars left us.

ANZAC Day greetings to all. And for any Aussie readers, folksinger Eric Bogle's great antiwar song about Gallipoli, done with period photos from the battle (and later, photos of modern Canadian troops serving abroad):

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