Ok, yesterday I wrote about Saint George’s Day but being a citizen of both the UK and Australia I felt I could not let ANZAC Day pass unmentioned. For those of you not aware tomorrow (25th April) is Anzac Day, it is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand, and a public holiday in Australia, unlike Saint George’s Day in England. It started as a day to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli in the Ottoman Empire (now modern day Turkey) during World War I. However, today it more broadly commemorates all those who served and died in all military operations for their countries.
In 1915, Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of an Allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula, Winston Churchill’s grand plan was that they were to open the way to the Black Sea for the Allied navies. The overall objective was to capture Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, which was an ally of Germany during the war. The ANZAC force landed at Gallipoli on 25 April, meeting fierce resistance from the Ottoman Army commanded by Mustafa Kemal (later known as Atatürk, who went on to become Turkey’s first President, bot more on him later). What had been planned as a daring strike to knock the Ottomans out of the war quickly became a deadlock, and the campaign dragged on for eight months. At the end of 1915, the Allied forces were evacuated after both sides had suffered heavy casualties.
The Dawn Service on ANZAC Day has become a major tradition, and the first official dawn service was held at the Sydney Cenotaph in 1927. Thousands of Australians make a pilgrimage to the site of the battle in Turkey every year for the dawn service held there. The name “ANZAC Cove” was officially recognised by the Turkish government on Anzac Day in 1985. In 1934, Kemal Atatürk delivered the following words to the first Australians, New Zealanders and British to visit the Gallipoli battlefields. This was later inscribed on a monolith at Ari Burnu Cemetery (ANZAC Beach) which was unveiled in 1985. The words also appear on the Kemal Atatürk Memorial in Canberra:
“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.”