The run up to A.N.Z.A.C. Day (appreciating and respecting an old foe)

A.N.Z.A.C. = Australian and New Zealand Army Corps

It was born on 25 April 1915 in a baptism of fire on a peninsula somewhere in Turkey that few knew about, much less cared. Unless you were from the nations that participated – New Zealand, Australia, India, South Africa and Britain. It is unique for there are few nations that not only take another nations children as their own, but TREAT them as if they were their own, even though they are not. It is a relationship with Turkey that perhaps only those who fought over those few kilometres of Chunuk Bair, A.N.Z.A.C. Cove and so forth in 1915 with such determination will ever fully understand, but it is a truly amazing union that has grown out of those battles.

Which other nations in the world can honestly say where they fought and left dead on the battle field that the nation on whose land it was fought has treated them as if it were their own? There is no higher or more amazing tribute to offer Turkey on whose lands the Gallipoli campaign of 1915 was fought than to say we acknowledge your generosity, even though it was YOUR countrymen we were trying to kill on those scrub covered ridges under a blazing Turkish sun. You fought with a doggedness and determination from a front line that was sometimes only a bit more than throwing distance from the enemy lines. You fought because it was your land.

You cannot make this stuff up. Ever.

6 days from now, Australians and New Zealanders will (HOPEFULLY!) stop in union. We hopefully will stop to remember those that went before us and those that remember Mustafa Ataturk’s famous message. A message that should be taught in every Australian and New Zealand school. Despite the attempt by British colonials to control the Dardenelles to ensure that Russia got the equipment and supplies she needed to fight her campaign against the Germans, YOU, Turkey were the winners. You made the nations that fought against you withdraw. It was a dreadful end to a dreadful campaign out of which two of the shining beacons of democracy in the western world grew.

Unless you are New Zealand, Australian or Turkish you might never understand the beauty of the relationship forged between Australians and New Zealanders thousands of kilometres from home in wars that perhaps they should have never been in. It is quite something amazing. It is like no other. And even in peacetime when the respective army requirements were somewhat less, Australians knew that if the New Zealanders turned up to an international emergency, they could be relied upon like few others.

Because we are A.N.Z.A.C.S.

But we fought Turkey in the days when it was the dying Ottoman Empire. It was the remnants of this empire that Mustafa Kemal bravely turned into the modern nation of Turkey. For his efforts to make the foundations of Turkey those of a modern secular nation, I can only admire. Despite Turkey’s downwards slope in recent years I can see Turks who understand the necessity of what Mustafa Kemal was trying to achieve.

So, Turkey, this message is as much for you, on whose lands our soldiers bravely fought, all those years ago. Even though the Armenian genocide comes to light and it would be good to see you acknowledge it, what you have done for our troops in the intervening 100 years since Gallipoli, cannot be questioned.

Thank you.

Kia Kaha (Be Strong)

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