Hundreds of visitors from Australia and New Zealand gathered at the site of the Gallipoli campaign in western Türkiye on Tuesday for a dawn memorial service.
The event marked the 108th anniversary of the first landing of Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) troops on the Gallipoli (Gelibolu in Turkish) peninsula during a military campaign in World War I, better known in Turkish as the Battle of Canakkale.
Nearly 2,000 Australians and New Zealanders made their trip to historic battlefields overlooking the Canakkale Strait (historically known as the Dardanelles) for the annual sunrise commemoration of the start of the eight-month campaign.
Many participants spent the night on site in sleeping bags and blankets in the cold, waiting for the ceremony to begin while watching documentaries and interviews about the Battle of Canakkale during World War I.
In the program that started at dawn, Australian Veterans Affairs Minister Matt Keogh and New Zealand’s Defense Minister Andrew Little delivered speeches on the significance of the day.
A famed letter by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Turkish Republic, to the families of foreign soldiers who lost their lives in the battle was also read out.
The eight-month campaign saw more than 44,000 British, Irish, French, Australian, New Zealand, Indian, and Canadian troops, as well as nearly 87,000 Ottoman soldiers, killed.
The day is also commemorated in Australia and New Zealand as ANZAC Day, and Gallipoli is seen as one of the defining events that ushered both countries towards nationhood.
The battle also forged links between Türkiye, which emerged as a modern state shortly after the war, and the ANZAC countries.
‘New Zealanders’ connection to Gallipoli is very strong’
Andrew Little, New Zealand’s defense chief, said that ANZAC Day is important to his country.
“A lot of New Zealanders came to fight here in Gallipoli, and many fell here and have stayed here and that’s been very important to families in New Zealand.”
“It’s also the time when Australians and New Zealanders forged a bond, and that continues to this day. So the connection and experiences of New Zealanders to Gallipoli is very strong.”
He said that they feel “welcome” when they come to Gallipoli, adding that the diplomatic and trade ties between Türkiye and New Zealand are growing stronger.
Matt Keogh, the Australian veterans’ affairs chief, said that it was a privilege to be in Gallipoli and extended condolences and good wishes to Turkish citizens affected by the massive earthquakes this Feb. 6 that took over 50,000 lives.
Keogh added that some of the national stories passed down through the generations in Canakkale are part of the national lore of Türkiye, New Zealand, and Australia.
“We didn’t come here to glorify the war. We came to show our respect, to honor those who sacrificed their lives, limbs, minds, and souls in the war,” he explained.
Chris Cole, a current member of the British Army, said that he migrated to New Zealand 40 years ago and has been interested in the Anzacs since then.
“It was a wonderful day for me to understand the friendship between Turkey, Australia, and New Zealand. It was one of the most beautiful ceremonies I have ever seen.” (AA)