Although more than a dozen memorials stand on ANZAC Parade, there’s a special one I’d like to revisit: the Kemal Ataturk Memorial. This memorial honors Kemal Ataturk, who commanded the Turkish forces at Gallipoli and later became the first president of Turkey. It also honors both the ANZAC and Turkish soldiers in the long, hard Gallipoli campaign. Soil from ANZAC Cove in Turkey lays underneath the dedication plaque.
The aim of the Gallipoli campaign was to gain control of the straits of the Dardanelles, which would allow Great Britain and France to directly attack Constantinople, thus forcing the Turks out of the war. The ANZACS landed at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915, a mile away from the intended landing. The soldiers met sharp cliffs and deep ravines, which came as a surprise since they had the wrong maps for the location. The ANZACs faced Turks fighting for their homeland led by the capable and determined commander Kemal. Conditions were harsh: poor food, water shortages, and flies led to disease. The temperature extremes over the eight-month campaign caused sunstroke and frostbite.
Although the Turks eventually forced a withdrawal, the cost was enormous: they had lost more than 80,000 troops, while Australia had lost more than 8,000. For both, the punishing campaign helped to forge national identities.
The combatants came to respect their adversaries. There are tales of soldiers going over to enemy trenches to exchange supplies during lulls in fighting. When the ANZACs withdrew, they left notes for the Turks, thanking them for a fair fight and assuring them that the food left behind wasn’t poisoned.
Later, long after the war ended, this tribute to the ANZAC soldiers buried at Gallipoli was often (and perhaps erroneously) attributed to Kemal Ataturk:
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 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. Having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.