By World News Report Bureau
Anzac Day is celebrated as a national day on 25 April each year in Australia and New Zealand. On this day Australians and New Zealanders pay homage to their soldiers “who died so that they could live today”. Anzac Day was originally to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army (ANZAC) Corps who fought at Gallipoli against the Ottoman Empire during World War I.
Many strange and unheard things happened in this war between Turkey and Australia. The Australians and Ottoman Turks were sworn enemies who exchanged blows on the battlefields of Gallipoli during WWI.
The ANZAC force landed at Gallipoli on 25 April, 1915 as a part of the Allied expedition. Their objective was to capture Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, an ally of Germany during the war and open the way to the Black Sea for the Allied navies.
They met with fierce resistance from the Ottoman Army commanded by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. The campaign dragged on for eight months. Both sides suffered heavy casualties. The Allied casualties included 21,255 from United Kingdom, 10,000 soldiers from France, 8,709 from Australia, 2,721 from New Zealand, and 1,358 from British India.
The Gallipoli campaign failed to achieve its military objectives and the Turks carried the day at Gallipoli.
Naturally, one would be inclined that such an encounter would have fostered long lasting hostility between the Australians and Turks. But quite the opposite took place; a deep mutual respect sprung up between the two sides. There was even a certain playfulness, as each side exchanged gifts and cigarettes between the front line trenches, and nicknames for each other. As one Anzac would later recall:
“They tried to drive us into the sea . . . They were a very brave enemy . . . We had nothing against them. He was fighting. Johnny Turk was fighting for his country and we was fighting for our country. No, there was nothing personal, no.“
A veteran from the Turkish side, interviewed in 1987 said:
“We didn’t hate the enemy. . . Their duty was to come here and invade, ours was to defend. No, I never hated them, never. And now my friends we’re brothers and I want to send my regards to all of them, my regards to the Anzacs.”
This sense of camaraderie has lived on since the end of the fated campaign at Gallipoli. Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk), a Lt. Colonel who served as a Division Commander throughout much of the campaign at Gallipoli and later became the founder of modern Turkey, made a stunning gesture of recognition and reconciliation towards the invaders in 1934 at a speech written to be delivered before a delegation from the Allied War Commission:
Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives 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 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.
For Atatürk, like the Turkish veteran noted above, the foes of WWI were now brothers in arms and to be remembered affectionately as brave soldiers that fought passionately for their country rather than colonial invaders.
War Memorial at The Gap, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia Pic Figaro
Since then many Australians have and continue to accept the hospitality initiated by Atatürk and make the pilgrimage each year to pay homage to those that fell on the beaches of Gallipoli and see the plaque on which those famous words have been engraved.
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
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.