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Echoes of Gallipoli

By Russell Grenning - posted Monday, 25 June 2018



But while having children re-enacting World War I events and playing dead in a place of worship is alien to western minds, it is extremely widespread in Turkey.


For example, in the city of Kirikkale in 2012, kindergarten children aged between three and six were made to don military costumes and wave around toy guns to commemorate the 97th anniversary of Gallipoli and Turkish media reported that "the martyred students were covered with Turkish flags."

In January 2017, a memorial hailing the sacrifices made by the ANZACS at Gallipoli was destroyed by the Turkish Government. This memorial contained words by modern Turkey's founding father Ataturk comparing the fallen ANZAC "Johnnies" to the Ottoman "Mehmets" he had commanded and giving them his blessing to be buried on Turkish soil.

Ataturk said in 1935 on the 20th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign, "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 where they lie side by side here in this country of ours. ..You, the mothers who sent their sons from faraway 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."

Now these words have been scratched out. The Turkish Government at the time tried to pretend that this had happened as part of a refurbishment of the site but they have never been restored.

Peter Stanley, a professor of history at the University of New South Wales, said, "It's not always apparent to Australian visitors to Gallipoli who tend to focus on the ANZAC story. But another, Turkish, battle has been going on for the past decade at least between the formerly universally accepted Ataturk interpretation and the increasingly strong Islamist view."

Professor Stanley said that since the Erdogan Government had come to power the new Visitors Centre at Gallipoli which is run by the Turkish Government depicts Turkish dead as "martyrs" dying in a fight against Christian invaders.


In 1915 just before the failed attack at Gallipoli, Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty and the most fervent advocate of what became an unmitigated disaster, wrote to a friend, " A good army of 50,000 and sea power – that is the end of the Turkish menace."

However, a massive British-French naval force and more than half a million Allied troops could not succeed against the "Turkish menace" and now that menace has emerged once again.

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About the Author

Russell Grenning is a retired political adviser and journalist who began his career at the ABC in 1968 and subsequently worked for the then Brisbane afternoon daily, The Telegraph and later as a columnist for The Courier Mail and The Australian.

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