Gallipoli, the Battle of which We Do Not Speak
We visited the war memorial at Gallipoli today after lunch in the town. The bloody campaign during WWI, though disastrous for the triple entente, was the event that launched Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s career as the father of modern Turkey. Before the battle, Kemal was quoted as saying, “I’m not ordering you to fight; I’m ordering you to die,” for a battle of attrition was the only way he would effectively fend off the invading British forces. The Turks, New Zealanders, and Australians now celebrate that say as the one in which as nation was born, but the loss was still significant, and the joyous events are accompanied by mourning and gratitude for the sacrifices made that day. And that first quotation along with the physical tombstones from 1915 staring me in the face was a hot to handle, even though I have no ties to this nation at all. There were kids aged 19 buried there under tombs engraved with epitaphs their mothers and fathers wrote. While their sacrifice lead to the basis of a thriving nation, I could only painfully picture myself at this age being ordered to jump a wall and die — no hope, no skill, no real ties to Gallipoli — just inevitable, irreversible, undeniable death. I’d be lying if I tried to tell you I didn’t cry a little at the site. The Turks have every right to be a proud people.
[for more information on the Gallipoli campaign, I suggest the book Gallipoli: 1915 by Tim Travers. It’s a complete discussion of both sides of the campaign, what it entailed militarily and personally, and more.]
[The inscription on the memorial on the left-hand side of the page reads: 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, 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.]