Lest We Forget


A person walking around the former battlefield of Gallipoli will see much evidence of the campaign that started 100 years ago today, when New Zealanders and Australians landed on the beaches of Gallipoli to begin an operation to take a small narrow strip of land that overlooked the key waterway between Russia and the Mediterranean. They will see trenches and dugouts from which these troops fought their Turkish foes. They might see unexploded ordnance left behind from the battle or spent cartridges.

And they might see the bones of people or mules who were not able to be recovered and had to be left on the battlefield to die a grisly death under a blazing sun. They might see the bones of British, French, Indian, Australian and New Zealand soldiers who died in brave but often futile charges into Turkish lines defended by men who were fighting for their country. Or of some of the 250,000 Turks who gave their lives for the Ottoman Empire and ultimately the modern nation of Turkey.

And as the descendants or the tourists from these countries wander this World War One battlefield, marvelling at the terrain over which such ferocious fighting took place, they might wonder as I am sure many will about the circumstances that brought these nations face to face with Turkey on Turkish soil. They might wonder about the folly of a campaign dreamt up by Winston Churchill as a way to help the Russians fight the Germans on the eastern front. And they might as I am sure the commemorative services of the next day or so will make sure, they remember the magnificent words of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, which I have put below:

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. (A tribute to thoseANZACs who died in Gallipoli.)

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk

And so, when The Last Post sounds on 25 April 2015, it sounds not just for Australia and New Zealand. It sounds for Turkey as well. I just hope that if it were the other way around, we would have had the same graces as those of Turkey and Ataturk. Likewise, those famous lines from Laurence Binyon are for Turkey as well as well Australia and New Zealand:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Laurence Binyon

Lest we forget

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