Although the Gallipoli peninsula saw fewer people arrive through the night ahead of Saturday morning’s ANZAC Day dawn service than it had in previous years, there was a noticeable contingent of Turkish visitors at this year’s commemoration.
Stationed nearby at Çanakkale with the Air Force, a soldier who gave his name only as Cemil said he had often thought of coming to see the annual April 25 service and was finally able to make it this year along with two colleagues.
Many of the approximately 8,000 other visitors from all over the world began arriving at the commemoration site near ANZAC Cove on Friday night, some as early as 9 p.m., to take part in the dawn service, which started at 5:30 a.m. Saturday.
Important to both sides
Although the weather was fine, it was another cold April night on the peninsula and the majority of visitors chose to huddle down in their sleeping bags in hopes of getting some sleep. Just away from the site, several vendors had set up shop and the thick blankets for sale were in nearly as much demand as the hot tea and coffee. For those who remained awake, there was sporadic commentary provided by historians, former servicemen from more recent campaigns and descendents of soldiers who fought at Gallipoli.
Waiting for the service to begin, Cemil said his main desire to come this year was because it was such an important place for the ancestors of those who fought and died on both sides. Koray Karanfilci, who returned to Çanakkale last year after living in Australia for 11 years, said he felt an equal affinity toward his Turkish ancestors and his ties to his adopted country. He said he was glad to be at Gallipoli this year to participate in the dawn service in his native homeland.
Karanfilci’s feelings capture the unique bond that formed between the Ottoman and ANZAC soldiers, one of the lasting impressions of what was an ill-conceived and, eventually for the Allies, an ill-fated campaign. Despite being charged with killing one another, both sides formed a lasting respect for their opposition. So important was this rare humanity that after the war, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk -who, as a colonel, played a decisive role in the successful defense of Gallipoli- sought to nurture that friendship as president of the newly formed Turkish Republic.
The camaraderie and ongoing friendship that exists between Turkey, New Zealand and Australia was a recurring theme in many of the speeches by dignitaries representing all three countries. The governor-general of New Zealand, Sir Anand Satyanand, spoke of lessons we could draw today from the huge sacrifice made by the soldiers on both sides; Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Stephen Smith praised the lasting relationship forged there between the ANZAC countries and Turkey; and two Turkish army officers read Atatürk’s famous words capturing that friendship in Turkish and English.
Each year, many of the visiting Australians and New Zealanders are younger people who are living and traveling in Europe. This year was the same, with large numbers of people in their 20s and 30s who had come from London and other European cities. However the groups of young people, many with Australian or New Zealand flags hung over their shoulders or painted on their cheeks, did not account for the entire audience. Many members of older generations had come all the way from Australia and New Zealand just for this year s service.
Christine Ryan from Napier, New Zealand, was visiting Gallipoli for the first time. She said she and her family attended a dawn service every year back in New Zealand, and that coming and participating in the service at Gallipoli was something she had long looked forward to and that it was a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Like many others, after coming all this way, Ryan will combine her ANZAC Day visit with an extended tour of Turkey. The joint dawn service was followed by individual Australian, Turkish and New Zealand national services, which took place at the respective national memorials atop the peninsula. On April 25, 1915, the members of the newly formed Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, or the ANZACS, landed at Gallipoli as part of a wider, British-led campaign to take control of the peninsula from the defending Ottoman soldiers so the navy could capture the Dardanelles, which they had failed to do earlier that year. After nearly nine months and half a million casualties, the ANZACs and the rest of the Allied campaign evacuated the peninsula, defeated by the Ottomans.