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Published: July 31st 2015
I grew up on a diet of annual commemorations on 25th
Over time I have collected mental images of vast cemeteries with white symmetrical crosses all in columns and rows. The reality is starkly different.
So I was surprised at how small the first cemetery I visited was.
But then it sinks in – there are lots and lots of cemeteries each containing the remains of those of a particular segment of the campaign.
Another unexpected discovery is how big the Gallipoli battle fields are in the minds of the Turkish people.
The very first memorial site we came to in the Gallipoli peninsula was a huge Turkish memorial. From there on we got to see the effect of the Turks losing about 3 times as many as the British and allies.
When we got to Anzac Cove and saw the steep slopes that the ANZAC forces were stuck with – you realise that a bloke would have to be virtually an Olympic athlete to get up the hill at all. I just could not understand why the Turks suffered
any casualties at all and how even one of the ANZACS survived. There is no beach at Anzac Cove. But from where we camped during our stay we enjoyed a wide sandy/loamy beach with a low slope up to a ridge and a failry easy trek over to the Dardinelles. That sort of topography runs pretty much for 30 or more kilometres along the western side of the Gallipoli peninsula – except for a section maybe 3 to 5 kilometres where the Anzacs got sent to.
On the day we visited the Anzac sites ( about 16 of them) we did not see one Australian. We did however see many, many Turks. They refer to their war dead as Martyrs. And they adore them very patriotically . Parking at some sites was difficult, and at a few even impossible, due to the crowds. Of course the Turkish sites were even more crowded. But of course Gallipoli belongs to the Turks.
When Australia got involved in WW1 we were a fledgling nation consisting of a bunch of former British colonies that had adopted a new constitution but had not really become united. When every little town and
district lost so many of its young then Australia became united in a single mateship. Its that unifying event that makes Anzac Day mean to us what the 4th July means to the USA and 14th July means to the French etc.
For the Turks who had joined with Germany in WW1 under their old cloak as being part of the ottoman Empire, Gallipoli means a lot too. After seeing what went on in WW1, an officer in their army Mustafa Ataturk went on to lead the nation to what we now as modern Turkey - with modern education, economic , civil systems and separation of church and state etc.
So two great nations were born out of a single British "GPS" error.
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