“Those heroes that 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 the Mehmets to us. Where they lie side by side now here in this country of ours … You mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away the 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.”
So said Mustafa Kemal Ataurk nearly 90 years ago. He was a commander in 1915 here in Gallipoli and is known as the father of modern Turkey. I have felt his presence all around Turkey and it feels fitting that he was here in Gallipoli.
It is because of these words and this sentiment that Kiwis and Australians are so well recieved here, loved even.
It is quite overwhelming to be here in a place that is so loaded with meaning for every New Zealander. I have had mixed feelings about visiting Gallipoli. On one hand I feel as though I have always wanted to, what Kiwi doesn’t long to come here? But on the other hand I tend to want to focus on the positive, wanting to create a world full of love and peace, not visit a huge war cemetery, drenched in sorrow, which is in essence what the whole peninsula is.
But I have returned from our tour feeling very inspired by our lovely, humanistic guide and his wise words. I feel cleansed by the tears I shed and moved by the beautiful statues and sentiments shared by the Turkish people in this “peace park”.
Ollie and I went on a tour. There were many beautifully laid out information panels, statues and of course cemeteries. This has the aforementioned poignant words from Ataturk printed on it, life size.
Such a tranquil spot….
Straight off the boats, onto the beaches and up the hills behind. This is known as The Sphinx.
There were so many amazing stories…this one especially.
An Australian ‘Johnny’ was wounded and lying crying out in no-mans-land. A ‘Mehmet’ (or ‘Johnny Turk’) raised some white underwear on his bayonet and when the firing stopped he went out on to the battlefield (it was only 8 metres wide here). The Allies had been warned about how mercenary the Turks were and held their breathe thinking he was going to finish the Australian off. But he bent down, scooped the injured soldier up and carried him over to his side. Of course then followed the moments of eye contact, the close up glimpse of the fierce enemy and unspoken words between the two sides.
This was a turning point in the attitutes of those fighting this war,with the realisation that each were just humans, young boys most of them, following orders. There are many common stories about truces to bury the dead, food and cigarette trading, messages attached to stones and thrown into the trenches, help given to each side from their ‘enemies’.
Lone Pine Cemetery. Here we found recorded the names of many of the Australian soldiers who died – including the youngest one….. a 14yr old.
Mustafa Kumal Ataturk was a forbidding and brave commander by the sounds of it. He acted instinctively and not always waiting for the proper orders. Here is a relief of his famous words (shouted so loudly the English could hear him) “Go and die…”
My song for this area is “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda” with the line “and how in that hell that they called Sulva Bay we were buchered like lambs to the slaughter.” Here is the beautiful Sulva bay. The whole area is a national park and absolutely gorgeous. The memorials and cemeteries are beautifully presented. Still, I bet the boys back then hardly noticed such details in the early morning dark, cold and wet….
The Ottomans lost a whole generation in the war and as the young men were gobbled up by it younger and younger boys were recruited – sometimes just grabbed off the streets. The machine guns they used were German and easy to use, a 12 yr old boy could be trained up in just one month. This is an actual photo of the young soldiers, now on the back of a tour bus.
At Chunuk Bair the main NZ memorial stands tall and behind is Ataturk himself. The crack at the bottom of the monument is positioned perfectly so at sunrise on the anniversary of the end biggest battle on Chunuk Bair (August 9th) the rising sun shines exactly through the crack.
I am so glad to have been to Gallipoli and am now able to visualise all those places whose names I have grown up with.
Suprisingly I am left feeling hopeful for humankind thanks to the wise words of our guide. His sentiments were much the same as mine.
That travel is very important to foster cultural understanding and peace.
That there may be a few not-so-good people everywhere, but mostly the world is full of good people, who want to live in a loving world.